Subhas Chandra Pattanayak

The year that ends today had to end. But with it 2009 cannot end.

2009 will continue to remind us of how Governments grabbed by agents of crumbling capitalism have played havoc with human life.

If journalists are the sentinels of human society, “A total of around 160 journalists in all continents were forced to go into exile to escape prison or death, often in very dangerous circumstances” informs Vincent Brossel, from Asia-Pacific Desk of the Reporters Without Borders (RWB).

Brossel marks 2009 for “two appalling events: one, the largest ever massacre of journalists in a single day – a total of 30 killed – by the private militia of a governor in the southern Philippines and the other was an unprecedented wave of arrests and convictions of journalists and bloggers in Iran following President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s disputed reelection”.

Pointing at other forms of violence, he shows, “physical assaults and threats have gone up by a third (from 929 cases in 2008 to 1,456 in 2009). Journalists are most at risk in the Americas (501 cases), particularly when they expose drug-trafficking or local potentates. Asia comes next with 364 cases of this kind, chiefly in Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Nepal. The number of censored media is escalating alarmingly with nearly 570 cases of newspapers, radio or TV stations banned from putting out news or forced to close”.

According to Secretary-general Jean-François Julliard of RWB, number of journalists killed in 2009 is up by 26 per cent. “Almost every journalist killed in 2009 died in his / her own country. The exception was Franco-Spanish documentary film-maker Christian Poveda, who was murdered in El Salvador.

RWB as well as Reporters Sans Frontiers (RSF) have documented that 76 journalists have been killed in 2009 as against 60 in 2008. The number of journalists kidnapped is 33 when 1456 have been physically assaulted and 73 subjected to arrest by police. Similarly 151 bloggers and cyber dissidents have been arrested and 61 physically assaulted even as a blogger has been killed in prison. As many as 157 journalists have fled their countries when 60 countries have promulgated online censorship and as many as 570 numbers of media censored.

“Less known to international public opinion than the foreign correspondents, it is these local journalists who pay the highest price every year to guarantee our right to be informed about wars, corruption or the destruction of the environment,” Julliard has said.

We in Orissa have witnessed in 2009 how local journalists have been subjected to brutal atrocities perpetrated by the corrupt executive and parliamentary wings of democracy. When Jagannath Bastia of Samaj at Puri is an instance of political brutality, Laxman Choudhury of Sambad at Mohana is an instance of police atrocity. 2009 has also witnessed how Sriharsha Mishra and Kiran Mishra, representing a daily published from Bhubaneswar were subjected to administrative violence by the Collector of Jharsuguda district as they were trying to dig out reasons of the premature death of farmers in the district.

So, to us in the media, 2009 is our witness to assault on Free Press not only in Orissa but also everywhere by miscreants in power.

Why it is so?

From offences against Free Press found in maximum numbers in the Americas it seems that collapse of capitalism is causing so much uncertainty in profit sphere that out of frustration the profit mongers are becoming more and more violent. Collapsing capitalism is seeking refuge in corruption to survive and journalists being sentinels of peoples’ cause, practitioners of corruption are finding the most formidable obstruction on their way in them and hence are trying to curb Free Press by intimidating or eliminating journalists through state-terrorism.

The more is the oppression on journalists, the more discernible is the frustration that has started engulfing the horizon of capitalism. 2009 gives us this assurance. Hence to us, 2009 shall not end. It shall go on reminding us of the tremendous sacrifice scribes all over the world have made in pursuit of their role as sentinels of society as a result of which the capitalists and societal culprits have become so unsecured that following the dictum that attack is the best policy of defense, have attacked Free Press and the Press persons so dastardly.

Orissa Governor Urged Upon By ‘Reporters Without Borders’ To Save Journalist Laxman Choudhury From Cooked Up Cases

Chief Minister Navin Patnaik sitting nonchalant over Orissa scribes’ request to save Sambad’s rural reporter Laxman Choudhury from false cases cooked up by the Police, an international body of reporters, Reporters without Borders, has expressed deep concern over havoc wrecked on Freedom of press in Orissa and has, in a communication addressed to the Governor of the State, urged upon him to rise to the occasion.

We reproduce the communication:

H.E. Murlidhar Chandrakant Bhandare
Governor of Orissa
Raj Bhawan
Bhubaneswar 751 008

Paris, 6 November 2009

Subject: Call for Laxman Choudhury’s release

Dear Governor,

Reporters Without Borders, an organisation that defends press freedom worldwide, would like to share with you its deep concern about the fate of reporter Laxman Choudhury of the daily newspaper Sambad, who was arrested on 20 September.

As you probably know, Mr. Choudhury was charged with sedition after being found in possession of Maoist leaflets. He is now waiting to appear before the Orissa high court.

He had received the leaflets like a dozen other journalists. The Maoists send their press releases and leaflets to reporters on a regular basis. They constitute news material and receiving them can under no circumstances be regarded as evidence of Maoist links. For these reasons, we consider that Mr. Choudhury’s arrest by the Gajapati police is arbitrary and unjustifiable, and violates the Indian constitution.

We are afraid he may have been the victim of an act of revenge by local authorities who were alarmed by his revelations. Orissa Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik promised to a delegation of four journalists that he would order an investigation into the allegations that Mr. Choudhury’s arrest was an act of revenge. But since then we have received no information about this investigation or how far it has advanced.

As the Orissa high court has not issued any ruling in this case, we urge you to use your constitutional authority to ensure that the petition is taken up by the court promptly so that Mr. Choudhury can be released.

I thank you in advance for the attention you give to this request.

Jean-François Julliard