Alarming pattern in attacks on media, says rights body



New Delhi, March 29 (IANS) Prominent editors and media figures from a media rights network across South Asia on Thursday condemned the killing of journalists in the region and said there is a pattern of violence against media workers.

The South Asia Media Defenders Network (SAMDEN) -- which includes India, Bangladesh and Pakistan -- said it condemned the killing of journalist Sandeep Sharma, in Madhya Pradesh, two journalists in Bihar and one in Pakistan.

It called upon governments and political parties across the spectrum to ensure protection of journalists.

"The alarming pattern of attacks against journalists, without successful investigations or convictions, points towards shrinking freedom of expression and anti-media tendencies in democratic nations, and concerns the very right to life itself," said a statement signed by Sanjoy Hazarika, the International Director of Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI).

Sharma, a television channel stringer, was run over by a truck on Tuesday. He had conducted a sting operation exposing a police official in the area which showed the latter accepting a monthly bribe of Rs 25,000 in exchange for allowing sand mining in a protected crocodile sanctuary.

In another incident, a correspondent of the Daily Nawa-I-Waqt, Zeeshan Ashraf Butt, was allegedly shot dead by a local political figure in Pakistan's Punjab province. Butt apparently had a quarrel with the Chairman of the Begowala Union Council and was reportedly shot by the latter, according to the police, quoted the Rural Media Network Pakistan (RMNP).

The RMNP said it was second killing of a journalist in Pakistan this year.

"These come two days after the alleged murders of two journalists in Bihar -- Navin Nischal and Vijay Singh, who were chillingly run over by a man driving a local leader's car, and represent a burst of attacks on media workers in one week in India."

"They are demonstrative of the increasing violence being directed towards media persons. Impunity recognizes no borders. Reporters in rural and areas (where) vernacular media appear (are) particularly vulnerable to arbitrariness and threatening conduct," the statement said.

Others signing the statement include Tarun Basu, Director and former Chief Editor, IANS and President, Society for Policy Studies (SPS); Siddharth Varadarajan, Founding Editor, The Wire; and television personalities Karan Thapar, Rajdeep Sardesai and Nidhi Razdan.




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