It’s not easy being a journalist in Manipur. It’s not easy doing any job in Manipur, for that matter, except perhaps being a militant.
Press releases are a particular problem for reporters up there. Any one of the 40-odd insurgent factions operating there can send in a press release, and if you print it, you might find government officials raiding your offices and accusing you of underground affiliations. And if you don’t print it, there’s a good chance that grenades will show up on your doorstep. Or worse: Here’s a selection of bad things that have happened to Manipuri journalists in recent years (via InfoChange):
- On June 30, 1993, unidentified gunmen shot dead the editor of Kangla Lanpung R K Sanatomba at his own gate.
- In October 1999, Hmar Revolutionary Army (HRA) cadres gunned down the editor of a Hmar language newspaper Shan, A Lalrohlu Hmar.
- Khupkholian Simte, editor of Lenlai magazine, was killed.
- On August 20, 2000, Thounaojam Brajamani Singh, editor of the English daily, Manipur News, and president of the Manipur State Journalists Association was shot dead by two unidentified gunmen.
- On October 14, 2002, three armed men abducted and killed NorthEast Vision special correspondent Yambem Megha, in Imphal.
- On October 8, 2002, two Manipur-based correspondents — Iboyaima Laithangbam of The Hindu and Y Arun of Eastern Panorama -– were kidnapped for two days as they were proceeding from Imphal to Moreh, by the United Kuki Liberation Front (UKLF) that was dissatisfied with inadequate coverage of its statements.
- In April 2006, a faction of the Kangleipak Communist Party (KCP) held six Imphal-based newspaper editors hostage through the night and forced them to publish a statement about the outfit’s “raising day” celebration which the editors had previously ignored. The KCP faction also clamped a three-month ban on the Imphal Free Press for misquoting an earlier statement.
- On July 31, 2007, a gift-wrapped Nokia mobile handset package containing a grenade and marked to the editor of The Sangai Express, the largest selling English daily in Manipur, was delivered to the office of the newspaper. The reason for the “gift”? One of two factions of a major underground insurgent outfit operating in the state wanted the statement of the other party dropped from publication.
- On November 17, Konsam Rishikanta, junior sub-editor at Imphal Free Press was blindfolded, gagged and shot dead by unknown gunmen.
Following another bomb threat this week, the journalists union has organised a protest today. Here’s my article on that:
“We are holding this rally to tell the militants and the government that they must let the media function freely and not to interfere in our work,” said Mr Rupachandra.
Last week, a grenade was delivered to the offices of the daily newspaper Naharolgi Thongdang with a note that read: “Last warning to the editor, next will be blast”.
It came from an obscure faction of an insurgent group called the Kangleipak Communist Party-Military Council (KCP), which was angry that newspapers were not printing their press releases.
The incident was the last straw for reporters in the state’s capital, Imphal, which has seen killings, kidnappings and bomb threats against journalists in recent years.
The leading papers kept their editorial pages blank the following day to protest the threats they regularly face from Manipur’s myriad militant groups…