As the year rolls on, the Indian subcontinent has slightly improved its journo-murder parameter with less than ten journalists being killed since January 1,2018 till date. However, India continues to be dangerous for scribes, as it tops the list of casualties in the subcontinent with four journalists being murdered in the last six months.
Pakistan follows India with two casualties. Bangladesh reported the murder of one editor-publisher in the first half of 2018. However, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bhutan, Maldives and Tibet (now under Chinese occupation) have not reported any incident of journo-killing in this period.
The largest democracy in the globe lost three journalists in mysterious accidents within twelve hours in Madhya Pradesh (MP) and Bihar on 25 and 26 March 2018. Sandeep Sharma (36), a dedicated reporter of Bhind locality of MP, was deliberately mowed down by a truck in the morning hours, following which the News World reporter succumbed to injuries in the hospital. Sandeep used to contribute media reports against the sand mafia and he received threats. On the previous night, two scribes namely Navin Nischal and Vijay Singh were hit by a luxury vehicle in Bhojpur locality of Bihar and died on their way to the hospital. Navin (35), who used to work for Dainik Bhaskar and Vijay (26), who was associated with a Hindi magazine, were riding on a two-wheeler when the accident took place. Lately, sensation prevailed in the country following the murder of well-known Kashmiri journalist Syed Shujaat Bukhari, who was shot dead in Srinagar on June 14 by a group of militants. The proprietor and chief editor of Rising Kashmir, Shujaat (59) earlier faced similar attacks in 2000 and 2006. The brave and outspoken journalist was since provided government security. But this time, both of his security guards namely Hamid Chaudhary and Mumtaz Awan also fall prey to the hardliner Islamist forces. Starting his career in Kashmir Times, Shujaat shifted to The Hindu as its Kashmir correspondent. Later he established Kashmir Media House that publishes English daily Rising Kashmir, Urdu daily Buland Kashmir and Kashmiri daily Sangarmal. Hailed from Kreeri locality in Baramulla district, Shujaat left behind his parents, wife and two minor children. He was laid to rest on June 14, the holy month of Ramzaan when everybody fasts, in his home place. India’s troubled neighbour Pakistan lost journalist Anjum Muneer Raja, who used to work in Urdu daily Qaumi Pukaar to assailants on March 1. Raja was shot dead by the miscreants in Rawalpindi locality, while he was on his way to home in the late evening. The second case was reported on March 27, when Zeeshan Ashraf Butt, a journalist from another Urdu daily Nawa-i-Waqt, faced the bullets. Butt was allegedly shot dead by Begowala Union Council Chairperson Imran Cheema.
Bangladesh reported the murder of Bangladeshi blogger and activist Shahzahan Bachchu on June 11 at Munshiganj locality. Editor of weekly newspaper Amader Bikrampur, Bachchu was allegedly attacked by Islamist forces for his free-thinking comments. Various international rights bodies condemned the murder of Bachchu and urged the authority for the genuine probe to find the culprits.
According to various international agencies, nearly 40 journalists lost their lives to assailants till date this year, where Afghanistan (casualty 11) tops the list. It is followed by India, Yemen (3), Pakistan, Mexico, Palestine, Philippines, United States of America, Ecuador (2 each), Bangladesh, Brazil, Nicaragua, Slovakia, Syria (1 each), etc.
India is placed at 138 out of 180 countries in Reporters Without Borders (Reporters Sans Frontières) 2018 global press freedom index, followed by Pakistan (139), Thailand (140), Cambodia (142), Malaysia (145), Bangladesh (146), Mexico (147), Russia (148), Singapore (151), Turkey (157), Iraq (160), Egypt (161), Iran (164), Laos (170), Cuba (172), China (176), Syria (177), etc. (See box to know the number of journalists killed in 2017) Norway and Sweden have maintained their first two positions in the RSF press freedom index, where North Korea continues to be at the bottom of the list. Countries which perform better than India include Myanmar (137), Philippines (133), Sri Lanka (131), Qatar (125), Indonesia (124), Maldives (120), Afghanistan (118), Nepal (106), Bhutan (94), Israel (87), Hong Kong (70), Fiji (57), Mauritius (56), USA (45), South Korea (43), Taiwan (42), United Kingdom (40), Ghana (23), Belgium (7), Switzerland (5), Netherlands (3), etc.
The author is a Guwahati based political commentator