ID to end impunity for crimes against journalists | By Tasneem Shafiq

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ID to end impunity for crimes against journalists

ON 23 November 2011, the International Day (ID) to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists was established by the International Freedom of Speech Exchange (IFEX); a worldwide network of civil society groups dedicated to defending and promoting the right to freedom of expression rights.

The International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists (IDEI) is a UN-recognized international day observed annually on 2nd November.

The day draws attention to the level of impunity for crimes against journalists, which remains extremely high globally.

Between 2006 and 2020, over 1,200 journalists have been killed around the world, with close to nine out of 10 cases of these killings remaining judicially unresolved, according to the UNESCO observatory of killed journalists.

Journalists play a critical role in reporting facts to all citizens, and impunity for attacks against them has a particularly damaging impact, limiting public awareness and constructive debate.

Needless to state that the right to freedom of expression has to be understood in its true essence in order to practice it but no one has the right to silence someone by use of force just because he is speaking against them.

Media should exercise it with due responsibility and regard for the national interests and security imperatives.

India is one of the world’s deadliest countries for journalists, according to Reporters Without Borders’s 2021 World Press Freedom Index.

Deliberate strangulation / intimidation of journalists in India is done to toe the Hindu nationalist BJP-RSS government’s narrative.

The Hindutva-led Government is using sedition, counterterrorism, and national security laws to target and prosecute human rights activists, students, government critics, and peaceful protesters in mainland India and particularly in IIOJK.

From stopping journalists from flying abroad like Aakash Hassan, Pulitzer winner Sanna Irshad, and Amnesty International’s Aakar Patel, to withholding Twitter accounts of prominent journalists like Rana Ayyub, India is setting new precedents in place for press brutality.

By employing draconian laws like UAPA, AFSPA, PSA and introducing new media policies, the Hindutva government’s sole objective is to hide its blatant human rights violations/war crimes in IIOJK.

World Press Freedom Index says Bharatiya Janata Party supporters and the Hindutva ideology have created an environment of intimidation for journalists who are critical of the government by labelling them as “anti-national” or “anti-state”.

The report has specifically called out Prime Minister Narendra Modi for his tightened “his grip on media”.

With four journalists killed in connection with their work in 2020. Surprisingly, the UNESCO ‘observatory of killed journalists’ has it that six, not four, journalists have been killed in India in 2020.

Journalists in India “are exposed to every kind of attack, including police violence against reporters, ambushes by political activists, and reprisals instigated by criminal groups or corrupt local officials”.

WPF Index has also noted that the situation in Kashmir as “still very worrying”, as journalists continued to be harassed by police and paramilitary forces, which it says are due to “utterly Orwellian content regulations”.

The report shed light on the “extremely violent social media campaigns” organised by the BJP and Hindutva supporters that openly call for “public condemnation” of journalists who are critical of the government, and they even go to the extent of issuing death threats “especially if they are women”.

It highlighted the throttling of freedom of expression on social media, and specifically mentioned that in India the “arbitrary nature of Twitter’s algorithms also resulted in brutal censorship”.

Indian government is increasingly targeting journalists and online critics for their criticism of government policies and practices, including by prosecuting them under counterterrorism and sedition laws, ten human rights organizations said today on World Press Freedom Day.

Journalists and online critics also risk prosecution under the Information Technology Act and IT Rules of 2021 for content critical of the authorities.

Indian govt have been implicated in using the Israeli-produced spyware Pegasus to target journalists.

According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, 2021 was one of the deadliest years for Indian journalists in the past decade, with six killed between 2021 and 2022.

The risks to journalists are exacerbated when reporting from places such as Nagaland, in north-eastern India where security forces are especially empowered.

Journalists become a target for security forces and under the constant monitor of multiple intelligence agencies.

” Due to martial law in the region, journalists have absolutely no safeguards in their line of duty.

On 20 May, journalist Subhash Kumar Mahto was fatally shot in Bihar, possibly due to his reporting on the liquor mafias.

Restrictions on media freedom come amid an escalating crackdown on civil society by the BJP-led government, which is using sedition, counterterrorism, and national security laws to target and prosecute human rights activists, students, government critics, and peaceful protesters.

In April 2022, at least five journalists covering an event organized by Hindu nationalist groups in Delhi were attacked.

Delhi police subsequently opened a criminal investigation into one of these journalists, Meer Faisal, accusing him of inciting hatred through a tweet, in which he alleged that participants in the event attacked him and a photojournalist because they were Muslim. Journalists from minority groups and those in Jammu and Kashmir are particularly at risk.

—The writer has remained associated with the Institute for Strategic Studies and ISPR.

 

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