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ATTACKS

Orissa: attacks on media rise, state remains spectator

The attacks on journalists are inextricably linked to the changing equation between the state and civil society, brought about by the triumvirate of aggressive industrialisation, political interests and competitive media houses.   The state government’s failure to take swift and punitive action in these cases has sent a clear message: the messenger can be shot. A Special Report from the FREE SPEECH HUB  

Posted Sunday, Jul 25, 2010


Journalists in Oirssa protest attacks on media-File photo

Journalists in Oirssa protest attacks on media-File photo

Executive summary:

The intimidation of journalists in the form of physical attacks, threats and initiation of legal proceedings against them has reached a peak in Orissa. There have been 12 physical attacks on reporters, stringers or camerapersons this year, and 6 cases of threat and intimidation, up from 3 attacks in 2009. Between 2004 and 2009, four cases of sedition were filed against stringers or reporters and a writer.

The attacks occurred either in retaliation for reports written or while the media- persons were on reporting assignments. The perpetrators fall in many different categories: sarpanchs(3), politicians and their henchmen (3), a bank manager, students, Central Industrial Security Force jawans, and Indian Reserve Battalion (IRB) personnel. In three cases the police were present but chose not to act. Cases filed have not made much headway. (The list of cases and the current status of police complaints filed are in the annexure. Click here for details).

The profession of journalism is undergoing changes in Orissa. This is partly an outcome of the rapid growth of the print and the electronic media as well as the hold that political parties and businesses have acquired over these. The most widely broadcast channels and the largest circulating daily are owned by powerful people. (See main report for details.) Given this reality, reporting the depredations caused by national and international business houses that have descended on the state to exploit its ample natural resources has become a perilous task.

As mining and industrialisation-related growth accelerates along with protests against these by the displaced populations, it is in the interest of the pro-development lobby to suppress all type of negative publicity. This is done by controlling the media through ownership, doling out largesse in the form of advertisements to others and intimidating those who cannot be neutralised by these. Among the worst affected are the faceless, and often nameless, stringers who form the feeder lines for the city-based media and have to bear the first brunt of media suppression by the powerful.

The attacks on journalists are inextricably linked to the changing equation between the state and civil society, brought about by the triumvirate of aggressive industrialisation, political interests and competitive media houses.

The state government either actively supports the corporations branding the critical media as Maoists, anti-national or seditious, or plays the role of a spectator. Its failure to take swift and punitive action in these cases has sent a clear message: the messenger can be shot.

This report by the Free Speech Hub Coordinator GEETA SESHU is based on visits to Bhubaneswar, Cuttack, Puri, and Jajpur (Kalinganagar). Telephonic interviews were conducted with journalists who were attacked in Behrampur, Angul and Athgarh.

I

Introduction

Since January this year, the Free Speech Hub has been tracking threats to freedom of speech and expression in India. We decided to document and investigate the incidents in Orissa to arrive at some understanding of their underlying causes.

Among other issues, those attacked have been reporting on the Maoist conflict, movements resisting displacement due to mining and steel projects, instances of corruption in government-sponsored projects like the NREGA, illegal activities of elected representatives, and have been covering spontaneous student protests or those of families of victims of medical negligence.

II

Media in Orissa:

Alongside the threats and attacks on journalists, the print and broadcast media are witnessing a major boom. Factors that have fuelled this growth include increasing urbanisation, higher literacy, access to modern printing technology and, very significantly, the entry of big business and the promise of advertising revenues.

Several new Oriya dailies and Oriya television channels have been launched over the last few years. The Eenadu-group’s ETV has an Oriya channel and the entry of big business into Orissa over the last 15 years has resulted in a marked interest of major English-language media houses too. Among the national English dailies which have an edition from the state capital Bhubaneswar, are the Times of India and the New Indian Express. The Hindu delivers an edition from Vishakapatnam with pages for Bhubaneshwar. The Telegraph launched an edition in Bhubaneswar on June 28, 2010.

The first Oriya newspaper, 'The Utkal Deepika', was launched in 1866 and several newspapers in Orissa were strongly nationalist, supporting the cause of the Oriya people as well as the freedom movement. Post-independence, the strong connection between politics and the media continued, with several Chief Ministers of the state launching their own newspapers. Today, there are over 85 Oriya newspapers and the interest of politicians in the media has remained a constant factor.

 OTV, the biggest Oriya television channel, is owned by Ortel Communications and its managing director is Jaggi Panda, wife of the Rajya Sabha MP from the BJD, Baijayant Panda. The latter, is also non-executive chairman of Ortel and a promoter of the Indian Metals & Ferro Alloys Limited (IMFA) group. Soumya Ranjan Patnaik, son-in-law of former Congress-I Chief Minister J B Patnaik, owns Sambad, Orissa’s leading ‘Odia’ daily. Another daily, Dharitri, is owned by Tathagatha Satpathy, the son of former Congress-I Chief Minister Nandini Satpathy and presently BJD MP from Dhenkanal.

Naxatra TV is owned by businessman Pravat Ranjan Mullick, also the promoter of Bhubaneswar College of Engineering and Kaustav group of technical institutes. The well-known Oriya newspaper Pragativadi,  is currently edited by Samahit Bal, son of the newspaper’s founder, the late Pradyumna Bal. Along with Dr Achyuta Samanta, the latter had also founded the Kalinga Institute of Industrial Technology (KIIT), which became a deemed university in 2004.

Economic development and a society in transition

Orissa’s subsistence economy has been changing rapidly ever since the economic reforms were set in place in the 1990s. The state has averaged a growth rate of 8.73 % in the first three years of the 11th Plan period, according to the Annual Economic Survey 2009-10.  The service sector contributed 55 % of the Gross State Domestic Product (GSDP), industry 25 % and agriculture 20 %. The state’s high economic growth rate is largely due to the late burst of manufacturing activity in steel and mining. Orissa manufactures 10 % of India’s steel and has 25 % of the country’s iron ore reserves. As for aluminium, Orissa tops in terms of capacity as well as output.

The worrisome sector is the stagnating agriculture, which supports more than 60 per cent of its population. Crop yields compare poorly with national averages, irrigation also lags behind and so does the use of fertilisers.

Orissa is experiencing an unprecedented pace of industrialisation, fuelled by the influx of large-scale investments by international and national corporate houses, including the Tatas, Jindals, South Korean steel giant POSCO, UK-based Anil Agarwal group Vedanta and Arcelor-Mittal. The state government has signed around 100 Memoranda of Understanding (MOUs) for thermal power plants, iron and steel mills, with capacities up to 12 million tonnes, aluminium factories and mining for iron ore, coal and bauxite. Roads and rail networks are also being set up, as are a host of ancillary industries and services.

The massive scale of industrialisation has displaced scores of villagers in project-affected areas. Here, resistance movements have sprung up and people of these villages have been pitted against various agencies ??" the administration, the police and security personnel of the disputed industrial plants. While the role of the media in covering these conflicts has been far from uniform, almost everyone agrees that the attacks on journalists are inextricably linked to the changing equation between the state and civil society, brought about by the triumvirate of aggressive industrialisation, political interests and competitive media houses.

III

Voices from the media

“This phenomenon (of media growth) has been visible for the last ten years and coincides with the opening up of mining in the state,” said Sudhir Pattnaik, editor of a fortnightly news-magazine ‘The Samadrusti’.  It is no coincidence that most of the advertisements the media bags come from the mining industry, he said, adding that the lack of scrutiny of the operations of the industry contributed to the alienation of the media from the people of the state.

Soumya Ranjan Patnaik, also editor of ‘The Sambad’, concurs, “Odia (The Sambad has been championing the name-change from Orissa to Odisha and its news-reports religiously use ‘Odia’) media is highly politicised. The mining boom has also attracted attention and money, and the investment is huge. The media has also benefited from this money.”

The government is insensitive to the media, he felt,  because it does not depend on the media for electoral outcomes (the BJD is in its third term in power). “The Chief Minister doesn’t even speak the language of the people of Odisha and feels he can hold onto power without the media’s support,” he said.

The attacks on the media, Soumya Patnaik felt, were symptomatic of the larger state of affairs in Orissa, where corruption has reached a head and administration in several parts of the state, is practically non-existent. A divided opposition and a divided media do not help matters and the government is in a very convenient position to ignore the media, he said.

His newspaper and television channel are seen as part of the ‘opposition’ in the state and have been harassed in the past. The launch of its television channel was also blacked out by cable operators. “But I’m very confident the worst is over. I can afford to tell the truth, whatever the cost,” he said.

Patnaik said that Samvad pays its district correspondents, unlike other newspapers that operate with a network of stringers, `‘because I would like him to talk to the district collector without fear or favour.’’

The view from the ground may, however, be quite different. Nigamanand Mohanty, a senior journalist and stringer for Oriya daily ‘Surya Prava’, said, “In Jajpur, there are now so many district correspondents ??" more than 150 in number. We have numbers, but no security. We can’t write what we want and if we do and get beaten up, you think our press or media owners support us? And even if we try to write about something illegal, we are implicated in false cases and silenced.”

Mohanty is Working President of the Jajpur District Journalists Association and is blunt about the plight of stringers: “It is very difficult to do any independent news-gathering in this situation. I am working for the last 25 years but I was with Samvad. I had no job security, no documents and no identification. That is the plight of so many of these stringers. The government said it would enumerate the number of stringers and identify the journalists but this process has been going on for the last two years and nothing has been done so far.

Now, when this kind of attack takes place and we see no action from the police, we do fear for our lives, he said. Protests from journalists are lodged after every attack by the Media Unity for Freedom of the Press (MUFP), an informal association of journalists formed in 2009 after two journalists were charged with sedition for allegedly supporting Maoists.

The MUFP issues statements, holds demonstrations and submits a memorandum to the Chief Minister or local district administration and police officials. In Behrampur, journalists sat in a dharna outside the police station and even boycotted a tour of Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik to the district three days after the attack on journalists by medical students.  But this cuts no ice with the administration or the government and, in the absence of any concrete response, the message is clear: that the safety and security of media-persons is not a priority.

Senior journalists and civil liberties activists in Orissa are in agreement that the current spate of attacks and threats are a result of the sudden growth of the media and the entry of politicians and big business houses into the media industry, and the resistance to the rampant industrialisation in Orissa.

 “I cannot state it as an empirical fact but I see a clear link between the rise in the number of attacks on journalists and the growing industrialisation in Orissa,” says Sampad Mahapatra, bureau chief of the television news-channel NDTV, in Bhubaneswar.

According to India TV correspondent, Prasanta Patnaik, corporate houses have begun to play a major role in the state with the active support of the government and the political parties. Even media houses back corporate houses who give them advertisements. “The mining and real estate mafia was not here ten years ago, today they own media houses and have other businesses,” he says.

“This is a good time for the press. There’s a boom in revenues and advertising. The media has its own way of looking at things and it sometimes matches, sometimes there is a mismatch,” said Chandrabhanu Pattnaik, editor of one of the oldest Oriya dailies, ‘The Samaja’. He felt the attacks on the media were professional hazards though there were a few serious cases of assault whereas others may be highly ‘overrated’! The problem of stringers, he added, was endemic and owners must sit together to find a solution, he added.

If print and broadcast media is booming, internet media is still at a nascent stage, though there are several news websites in Orissa. Apart from Orissamatters.com and Oriyadiary.com, almost all the major Oriya dailies have their own websites. Basudev Mahapatra, editor of a news features site, hotnhitnews.com, said there is a tendency to undermine journalists in Orissa. The police act as protectors of corporates and the people said to be the most powerful in a democracy are cowering in fear, he said.

There is so much deprivation and hardly 40 per cent of those displaced by the industrialisation projects have been properly rehabilitated, felt Sarada Lahangir, special correspondent of the news-agency Asian News International (ANI).  Journalists, she added,  are simply not encouraged to question whether this kind of industrialisation can be undertaken at the cost of human beings.

Lahangir would also like to see greater professionalism and better training amongst journalists in responding to changing equations in Orissa, a sentiment echoed by Elisa Patnaik, a senior journalist. “Post-industrialisation, the biggest issue apart from displacement and development, is corruption. And it is very unfortunate how this is covered, especially by regional media,” says Patnaik. Most information is hearsay and there are no reliable sources or authentic quotes. The liberal use of allegations instead of specific information that would nail someone has severely questioned the credibility of the media, she said. 

Perils of journalism

Most journalists work or write for media houses that are run by business groups having interests in mining, real estate or education. While the staffers are hamstrung by these interests, the stringers who are attached in an informal manner to several newspapers or television channels are in a pathetic condition. Usually working for years with a newspaper, they are paid a fixed rate and on the basis of articles used. They are also given the task of space selling and collection of advertisements.

On several occasions, it is these stringers - in the field, closest to the scene of action in their district ??" who become the first targets of local powers. They have no status, documentation or identity proof of their role as journalists. Often, they get very little empathy from media-persons who hav a more formal association with a news organisation.

Although most attacks on journalists may look like isolated incidents, usually there is a background of some powerful person or agency being rubbed the wrong way. Akhand, who reports for Sambad, Kanak TV and Anupam Bharat, was beaten up by a local politician, Pravakar Behera, for writing about the latter’s illegal tree-felling in Pipili, Puri district. Akhand said that Behera had threatened him in 2006 over another matter and assaulted another journalist, Deenbandhu Beuria in 2008.

Some of the scribes may even be local activists who write and agitate on a host of civic, environmental and other issues. Rabi Das, for instance, is editor of Ama Rajdhani and an active member of the association. He is also involved in the agitation against POSCO.

“Today, the government manages media on behalf of corporate forces,” said Das, adding that most national newspapers don’t step out of urban areas to cover any issues. When journalists do go out to cover something and are attacked, their proprietors don’t back them, he pointed out.

Das, who decided to launch his own newspaper that would reach a readership beyond urban Orissa, also believes that the electronic media helps shape public opinion and has a far greater reach than print media. “Yes, they are all owned by business people with mining interests, but they have talk shows, they are competitive and need us to make their discussions lively,” he said, adding that he uses the electronic media to get a point of view across.

While corruption is a major issue, it is in the coverage of conflict and resistance to displacement or to industrial projects that the freedom to report without fear or favour has been most tested.

Most journalists stay away from venturing too deep into forest areas or conflict zones and miss out on the real story behind different conflicts. Some journalists of national newspapers rely heavily on the stringers and rarely venture out of the state capital. “They take the news and information, call up a few officials in the administration, get a few quotes and file their stories under their bylines!,” says Lahangir.

Travelling to zones of conflict is not impossible but journalists who do so must keep their wits about them, she advised, recalling her own visit to Malkangiri where she had to avoid a CRPF camp. “We didn’t stop at the camp because we didn’t want the CRPF personnel to accompany us as they are a target for the Maoists much less did we want to be in a position where we would lead them towards the village and compromise the locals and our own local contact.” she explained.

 “I have been writing consistently against police repression in the area and reporting the demands of the tribals. I think they should be heard. I agree with part of the proposition ??" that there can no development without industrialisation - but industrialisation at gun-point? The government itself admits that it’ll take 20 years for the mineral reserves in this area to be mined. What happens afterwards?,” asks Amulya Pati, the New Indian Express correspondent from Jajpur who was beaten up in Kalinganagar on April 5 this year.

Other journalists, he says, don’t ask these questions and are happy with the ‘pay packets’ they get from the steel companies. The latter is clearly on a divide and rule course, not just with the media, but also between tribals who have taken the compensation and those who are still holding out.

Basudev Mahapatra talks of the pressures he faces: “Corporate houses tried to pressurize me to remove the reports on my site. Vedanta offered me advertisements on condition I do not write anything against the company ??" obviously indirectly. Recently, I kept getting telephone calls from someone criticising my articles on Kalinganagar. When I asked him his name, he refused to identify himself. He kept calling from different STD booths,” Mahapatra said.

On another occasion, his site was hacked and articles he posted on issues of displacement due to industrial projects were deleted! In 2008, his site was blocked for 15 days after an article on Kashipur. Sometimes, articles come on the web as gibberish, though they were uploaded correctly. It is only after changing the web administrator and becoming more technologically savvy himself, that he has been able to counter these attempts.

Sampad Mahapatra, while acknowledging the protection his association with a national media organisation like NDTV gives him, nevertheless feels that there is an ever-present sense of danger lurking for journalists in Orissa. He said that most average people in the state believe that the media and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) criticise the government’s policies because they are against development.

“Politicians have said as much in public speeches. There’s no civil society in Orissa, there’s no debate or discussion on this ‘development’, where the entire state is being dug up and sold. Ultimately, the job of questioning will fall on the media,” he said, adding that, when the government refuses to respond to the attacks on the media, it is actually sending a clear message to the media not to mess around.

The stringers, he rues, become easy prey as they work in risky, conflict ridden areas without recognition or press cards: “They are at the end of the information chain and if they are attacked, we ??" sitting in the state capital ??" are paralysed. The government, by targeting them, is cutting at our roots.” After Laxman Chaudhury was arrested for sedition in 2009, for instance, no journalist wanted to venture into the area for at least three months, he recalled. 

Sometimes, the best laid plans can go awry, as it happened with West Bengal-based journalist Bolan Gangopadhyay who was detained on suspicion of being a Maoist near Rayaguda but didn’t have any documentation to prove her credentials as a journalist. She said she represented Ananda Bazaar Patrika but police contacted the newspaper and were told she was not a staffer. A flurry of telephone calls from civil society activists, journalists and others followed and it was established that she did in fact, freelance for the newspaper. Police decided to free her without any charge.

``But these kinds of incidents only try to paralyze us and confine us to the state capitals and urban areas,’’ felt Mahapatra, objecting to the detention of Gangopadhyay. “On what basis did they detain her? As a citizen of this country, doesn’t she have the freedom to go anywhere? Is this area a defence installation or have they put up a board that it is out of bounds?” he asked.

Often, police scare journalists with threats of arrest on suspicion. But media-persons must have the freedom to venture into these areas as they act as a bridge between those in a conflict zone and the others, he felt.

IV

Role and response of state

Despite the frequency of these attacks, some of them violent, and the constant threat to freedom that it represents, the response of the State government, headed by Naveen Patnaik, has been tepid.

Numerous representations to Patnaik don’t yield any response beyond a polite ``we’ll look into it’’, says senior journalist Prasanta Patnaik, a driving force behind the Media Unity for Freedom of the Press (MUFP).

Indeed, Man Mohan Praharaj, Orissa’s Director General of Police, told this reporter that there may have been a few attacks “once in a while, here and there but these were not of a scale that should be of great concern.” He added, “Suddenly, there is a media explosion, especially with electronic media. Earlier, there were fewer journalists and there were a few unpleasant situations, but these were sorted out. The print media is civilized and writes in a responsible manner. But television journalists enter everywhere with their cameras and privacy issues do come up.”

When asked about the beating up of Amulya Pati in Kalinganagar, he said he had never heard of this case and did not wish to comment on individual cases. Regarding the case of Akhand in Puri where the Orissa State Human Rights Commission had directed police to take action within six weeks, the DGP said, “Offhand, I can’t respond to each and every case, but the police have limited resources and within this, we are trying to do our best.”

In Behrampur, for instance, where journalists were beaten up for covering a clash between medical students and relatives of a deceased patient, the police were working on the razor’s edge, he said. “The doctors are a powerful group and now have an act to protect them against assault while on duty. The media is all-powerful too and when journalists tried hectoring the doctors, trouble broke out,” he said.

The debate on industrialisation was a major one in Orissa, he added. “People have strong points and counter-points in this regard as a developmental model. This gets reflected in the media and journalists are on both sides of the divide. The unkindest cut is that the media becomes a pawn when two industrial houses compete for business,’’ he felt.

Competing business interests apart, what also queers the pitch is the role of the state government, perceived as supporting big business. Consider this: On March 17, 2010 Justice P K Patra, who is the state Lok Pal, passed an order on a complaint filed by Advocate Dwaraka Mohan Misra that all norms were violated when the state government handed over land to the Anil Agarwal Foundation for setting up the Rs 15,000 crore/- Vedanta University. The Lok Pal’s order, recommending a moratorium on the project was received by the complainant and covered extensively by television and print media.

On April 6, 2010, the Lok Pal received a communication from the Secretary of the Public Grievances & Pension Administration Department to initiate appropriate action as per Section 15 (5) of Orissa Lokpal and Lokayukta Act 1995 against journalists and media organizations that, according to him, have violated Section 15(4) of the said Act (No person shall publish any proceedings relating to investigation which is pending before the Lokpal or a Lokayukta, as the case may be, nor shall any person publish such proceedings after the investigation is complete) by publishing recommendations of the Lokpal on irregularities in the award of land to Vedanta University. So far, the Lok Pal has not responded to the letter.

V

 Response of Civil Society

Civil society activists, writers, artists and film-makers plough a lonely furrow when they speak out and protest against police repression or express resistance to government policies and programs. When the legitimacy of protest is itself in question, legitimate forms of protests simply don’t exist, say a number of civil society activists and representatives of civil liberties organisations.

Pramodini Pradhan, a member of People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) is worried at the silencing of civil society from within as well as from without. “Today, there is a fear psychosis prevalent in Orissa. Recently, a television journalist said that the phones of several civil society activists, including mine, were being tapped, so people have become overly cautious,” she laughs. But what is more serious, she feels, is the complete lack of debate or discussion on issues like displacement, development or police repression.

“School-children are taught that Orissa is a poor state and their school textbooks  list out the natural resources the state has. They are taught that the only way out of this poverty is to exploit these natural resources. So when we speak out and question this model of development, we are branded as being unpatriotic,” said Surya Shankar Dash, a young film-maker who has made a series of short films on varied issues under the banner of Madhyantar.

Dash’s films on Vedanta were uploaded on Youtube last year. “I had at last 40 short videos, comprising 90 minutes of strong documentary evidence of Vedanta’s attempt to grab land from adivasis in Niyamgiri. But just before the company’s annual general meeting in London, my account was hacked into and all the videos were deleted,” he said.

Dash, who has been trying to get adivasis to shoot their own videos and record police crackdowns, finds there is less room for debate now in Orissa. Reporters from the urban centres have stopped going to Niyamgiri while local journalists are either under pressure or have been bought over, he said.

For Prafulla Sanatra, a convener of the National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM), the media’s unwillingness to cover stories of displacement and conflict was of greater concern. Civil society initiatives on the resistance movements that have sprung up often draw a blank when it comes to media coverage. “Our press conferences are not covered, our articles not printed or even letters to the editor don’t find any space. When Maovadis speak of exploitation, there is no news, when adivasis say they won’t leave their land, there is no news. Is this not silencing people’s dissent?” he asked.

Prashant Paikara, a spokesperson for the POSCO Prathirodh Sangram Samiti, which has decided to reject the state government’s package declared on July 8, is battling a different kind of censorship: misrepresentation. “The media reports that we allowed the survey and are willing to take the compensation. The Chief Minister said he’d visit the site but never came. We burnt a copy of the package but this is not reported. We have a peaceful, democratic movement, but the media alleges that the Maoists are spearheading the movement. There is not a single Maoist here but the media doesn’t write that. What can you expect when 30-40 journalists are taken to South Korea by POSCO, given gifts and advertisements?’’ he asked.

The charge of being a Maoist is a familiar one for Rabi Jharika, spearheading the struggle of adivasis in Kalinganagar. “It took the deaths of 14 tribals for people to understand that we are against this kind of development. We can’t leave our land but when we resist, we are branded as Maoist and all kinds of false charges are levelled against us,” he says, pointing out that those who already gave up their lands have lost their money, have no jobs and are reduced to begging. The tribals in the transit camps are battling illness but none of this is written about, he rues.

Debranjan Sarangi, writer, film-maker and activist has faced the heat from Hindutva forces for short stories he has written against communalism in a monthly literary magazine, Bijaya. It is only over the last few years that people in Orissa have become more aware of issues related to displacement and rampant mining of natural resources, but the media’s branding of all movements against displacement as ‘Maoist’ is unfortunate and inaccurate, he feels. “The Maoists have not declared their position on mining and displacement. They have spoken out against police firing and repression but I haven’t read anything about their views on industrialisation,” he said.

Lenin Kumar, the editor of Nissan, who was arrested on charges of sedition in 2008, still finds it difficult to bring out his magazine. “No one is willing to print it. As soon as they see my name, they refuse to print it. I think even if we have Aishwarya Rai on the cover of Nissan, no one will be ready to print it,” he says wryly.

The charge of sedition, archaic though it may be, is strong enough to deter more faint-hearted people. Journalist Keerti Sahu, who was charged with sedition in 2004 for reporting on Maoists, says that several people stopped talking to him and avoided him for a few months after he was charged with sedition. “A lot of people doubted me though I’ve worked for so many years,” he said. But the experience only made him more determined. “I figured that if you write the truth, you’ll have to go to jail, one time or the other, so I’m going ahead with my writing and reporting,” he said.

VI

Conclusions

The Orissa State Government’s failure to take swift and punitive action in these cases has sent a clear message: the messenger can be shot. The government’s inaction stems from its anxiety to keep all its customers, especially big business and the upper middle-classes, satisfied.

The media’s links with big business or politicians ensures that they essentially compete rather than collaborate. The resultant fragmentation has prevented the launching of a broad and effective campaign against assaults on the media.

More often than not, stringers and freelancers are at the receiving end of these assaults, and need to be more vigorously protected and defended by newspaper companies as well as their colleagues and organisations.

The lack of a strong and united journalist organisation has facilitated the rampant attacks on the media. The formation of the Media Unity for Freedom of the Press appears to be a step in the right direction.

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