Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Threat to scribes in NE, newspaper blackout in ManipurThreat to scribes in NE, newspaper blackout in Manipur


Manipur on Monday went without newspapers as publishing houses observed an ‘information blackout’ to protest militant diktats on what to print and what not to. Dailies in Arunachal Pradesh, though, hit the stands by front-paging strong reactions to similar threats not necessarily from militants. Some 15 dailies in English and local languages are published in Manipur everyday. All are invariably under pressure to print, usually ad verbatim, what militants want. Publishing counter-views, particularly from rival groups, is often considered a punishable crime. Some scribes get killed for it; others get shot in the leg as a warning.
The latest stand-off between media houses and militants followed the Kangleipak Communist Party’s (KCP) warning to editors not to provide space to its alleged breakaway faction KCP (Mobile Task Force). The threat invited a counter-threat from the KCP faction.
Caught between the KCP and its offshoot, the All Manipur Working Journalists’ Union decided to cease work on Sunday. “Consequently, no papers hit the stands today,” said a member of the Union. Condemning the “gag order”, the Union also sought an apology from the militant outfits.
The issue of “chaining the freedom of the press” also raged in Arunachal Pradesh capital Itanagar, but the publishing houses decided against depriving readers their due. However, the papers were full of disapproval of threats to local scribes for writing on “raging issues” such as the Rs 1,000 crore PDS scam.
Former Arunachal Pradesh Chief Minister Gegong Apang, one of the prime accused in the scam, got bail last week after about a month in jail.
“The threat to Tongam Rina, associate editor of The Arunachal Times, is vehemently condemned. Such act intended at curtailing the freedom of press and gagging the society needs to be crushed, lest it balloons beyond control,” said Damba Riba, a reader and vice-president of a local welfare group.


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