[Editorial Analysis] Unabating attacks on journalists

Mains Paper 2: Governance
Prelims level: Not much
Mains level: Important aspects of governance, transparency and accountability


• Isravel Moses, a 26-year-old television journalist who reported on illegal encroachment of land and sale of ganja, was hacked to death in Nallur village in Kanchipuram district of Tamil Nadu on November 8.

• Four persons who attacked him were later arrested.

• The same day, another journalist, 35-year-old Syed Adil Wahab, was found brutally murdered in a jungle on the outskirts of Bhopal.

• Earlier on June 14, 2018, Shujaat Bukhari, a prominent journalist from Kashmir and the Chief Editor of Kashmir Times, was shot dead by three militants in the heart of Srinagar, when he was returning home from office.

• His manifest views on bringing peace to the Valley did not go well with militants.

Journalism-dangerous profession:

• Such attacks on journalists who dare to expose corruption and misdeeds of anti-social elements, or who do not toe the line of the establishment, have proved to be a threat to journalists the world over.

• Unfortunately, India has been going down on the World Press Freedom Index during the last few years.

• In the annual reports of Reporters Without Borders, India has steadily gone down in the global index from a rank of 138 in 2018 to 140 in 2019, and further down to 142 this year.

• According to the United Nations, “Journalism is one of the most dangerous professions in the world”.

• Between 2006 and 2019, over 1,200 journalist have been killed the world over.

• On an average, it is estimated that one journalist is killed every four days. Sadly, in just one out of every ten such cases, the killers get convicted, while the rest go scot-free.

• In 2009, as many as 32 journalists were killed in Philippines; ten were killed in Afghanistan in 2016,and ten journalists were among those killed in a suicide bomb attack in Kabul in April 2018.

• A report released by an NGO last year states that 40 of the 198 journalists attacked in India between 2014 and 2019 died due to the attack.

• The killing of journalists is more rampant in smaller towns, while the figures in metro towns are quite low.

• It is cases like the killing of journalists such as the late Gauri Lankesh in Bengaluru in 2017, that draw much country-wide attention and impel the police to investigate the murder.

Low convictions:

• Considering the rising trend in the number of journalists killed each year, the Chairman of the Press Council of India (PCI), Justice Chandramauli Kumar Prasad, counselled the government “to enact a special law for protection of journalists and speedy trial of cases of attacks and assaults”.

• The PCI’s records indicate that 96% of the cases of attacks on journalists end up without conviction.

• That there is a need for stringent laws to protect journalists hardly calls for emphasis.

• Towards this end, Maharashtra has emerged as the first State in the country to enact a law.

• Under the Maharashtra Media Persons and Media Institutions (Prevention of Violence and Damage or Loss to Property) Act, 2017, any attack on journalists would be non-bailable and cognisable, and would be investigated by an officer not below the rank of Deputy Superintendent of Police.

• Conviction under this Act could lead to imprisonment of up to three years and/or fine of up to ₹50,000.

• The attacker will also have to compensate for medical treatment in case of injuries to the journalist and also pay for damage to any equipment.

• Taking a cue from the Maharashtra law, Chhattisgarh is in the final stages of enacting a law known as Chhattisgarh Protection of Mediapersons Act.
• It has a wider definition of journalists, covering drivers, and even relatives of journalists.

• On conviction, the attacker would be liable to be punished under relevant sections of the IPC.

• But any public servant found guilty of dereliction of duties is liable to be punished with imprisonment of up to one year and/or fine of up to ₹10,000.


• While these two States have taken the initiative to enact laws to protect journalists, other States have to follow. The sooner it is done, the better.

Mains Questions:

Q.1) There is an urgent need to enact laws that protect mediapersons and provide accountability. Comment.

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