Silencing the Truth

Violence against journalists working in Nagaland though not as marked in other places does exist and the latest attack on Nagaland Post Kohima Correspondent Xavier Rutsa should not be easily brushed aside simply as a mere aberration but one which goes to show that beneath the cool comfort zone of the news desk and field reportage, lies a minefield of elements who are out to seriously jeopardize the freedom of expression for the mere pretext of silencing the truth. 

It has to be said that Journalists in Nagaland may look to be a happy lot but the truth is newspapers, their staff, editors and publishers have to work under a climate of intimidation of various degree such as pressure, threats or bullying tactic. As such, sometimes self-imposed censorship may even be demanded of journalist, which is necessarily not a good thing and one that could seriously damage one’s own duty towards the profession.

Across the globe there are cases of death threats, physical attacks and other forms of intimidation being meted out to journalists. The public that newspapers serve should not be surprised to know that there have been instances when local dailies published from Dimapur have received repeated anonymous messages of threats and intimidation. Such types of attacks and harassment have become occupational hazards for journalists here in Nagaland and the public should be aware that journalists work under a lot of duress while duly working for the betterment of society.

It is in the fitness of things that appropriate investigations are carried out into the reasons for the recent attack on Xavier so that such incidents are not repeated. Failure to bring those responsible to justice could encourage the perpetrators to continue thus leading to further harassment against the media. It is also about time that the Press Corps of Nagaland, which is the umbrella organization of the State journalists, approach the government with a planned proposal that goes beyond mere temporary police protection and putting in place suitable precautionary measures which would help protect journalists and their work. 

At present skepticism is there among our journalists about the ability or willingness of the authorities to protect members of the press, and to safeguard their right to carry out their work. Journalists in Nagaland have not even been given proper press accreditation. It is high time that the State government gives due recognition of the rights for those in the media so that their well being and security is assured while carrying out their legitimate and important work. Failure to do so would be tantamount to official apathy — encouraging the feeling that journalists can be threatened, injured, or killed without consequence.

Over the last five years, the media in Nagaland has been expanding rapidly with addition of new newspapers both English and vernacular and forays being made into the broadcasting media as well. Though this is an encouraging development it has to be said that the media has also been used mostly for self aggrandizement by different groups and parties and without them giving in return the due respect and legitimate recognition that the media truly deserves. Only when it is fully empowered would the media be able to fulfill it mandate. But the problem is there are those who do not want this to happen, not for the media and definitely not for an open society.