NEW DELHI – A total of 194 journalists, including seven women journalists, were targeted across India in 2022, according to the Rights and Risks Analysis Group (RRAG).
These journalists were targeted by state agencies, non-state political actors and criminals, and the armed opposition groups.
Jammu and Kashmir experienced the highest number of targeted journalists (48), followed by Telangana (40).
Other regions affected included Odisha (14), Uttar Pradesh (13), Delhi (12), West Bengal (11), Madhya Pradesh and Manipur (six each), Assam and Maharashtra (five each), Bihar, Karnataka, and Punjab (four each), Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, and Meghalaya (three each), Arunachal Pradesh and Tamil Nadu (two each), and Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Haryana, Puducherry, Rajasthan, Tripura, and Uttarakhand (one each).
As many as 103 journalists were targeted by the state actors, while 91 journalists were targeted by the non-state actors including political activists, said RRAG.
Out of 103 journalists, 70 were arrested or detained, 14 had first information reports (FIRs) filed against them, and four were summoned by the police and Enforcement Directorate. Fifteen journalists faced physical attacks, threats, and harassment from public officials and police, and they were also stopped from flying abroad by immigration officials.
Suhas Chakma, director of the RAAG, said, “Telangana reported the highest arrest/detention with 40; followed by Uttar Pradesh (6); Jammu and Kashmir (4); Madhya Pradesh (3), Assam, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Maharashtra, Manipur and Odisha (2 each); and Andhra Pradesh, Delhi, Tamil Nadu, Uttarakhand and West Bengal (1 each). FIRs were registered against 14 journalists under various provisions of the Indian Penal Code, including Sections 124-A (sedition) punishment for defamation (Section 500), 295A (acts intended to outrage religious feelings), 153A (promoting enmity between different groups); Section 66-C, Section 67 and Section 69 of the Information Technology Act and the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act.”
In 2022, at least four journalists were summoned for questioning. Three of them – Gowhar Geelani and Yash Raj Sharma of Jammu and Kashmir and Wangkhemcha Shamjai of Manipur – were summoned by the police. Sucheta Dalal of Maharashtra was summoned by the Enforcement Directorate in New Delhi.
Out of the 91 journalists who were attacked by non-state political actors and criminals across the country, the highest number of attacks on journalists were reported in Odisha and Uttar Pradesh (five each).
Seven journalists were killed by non-state political actors and criminals. A 26-year-old journalist, Subash Kumar Mahto, was killed for his reporting on sand and land mafia in Bihar, while the rest were killed for personal enmities, road rage, etc.
About 41 journalists were targeted by the armed opposition groups in Jammu and Kashmir, Manipur and the Naxal affected areas, said RRAG.
Forty-three-year old Rohit Biswal, a reporter for Odisha daily Dharitri, was killed in an IED blast reportedly planted by Maoists. He was killed while he was trying to go near posters put up by suspected Maoists warning people not to vote in the panchayat polls in Mohangiri village in Madanpur-Rampur block.
“The situation of press freedom has not improved during the year and the journalists remained vulnerable to severe attacks from the state and non-state actors, both online and off-line,” said Chakma.
Separately, as of December 1, 2022, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) had said that 363 reporters were currently deprived of their freedom. The figure overtook the previous year’s record by 20%, said CPJ in its annual prison census.
First Published in The Wire