Media censorship, surveillance rose in India in 2013: report

Eight journalists were killed in 2013 while covering stories, six of them during the Muzaffarnagar riots


The Hoot report said there were 19 physical attacks on journalists, four of them by political parties, including an attempt by members of the Trinamool Congress to torch Barun Sengupta, a journalist with the television channel 24 Ghanta. Photo: Abhijit Bhatlekar/Mint
The Hoot report said there were 19 physical attacks on journalists, four of them by political parties, including an attempt by members of the Trinamool Congress to torch Barun Sengupta, a journalist with the television channel 24 Ghanta. Photo: Abhijit Bhatlekar/Mint

New Delhi: More journalists were killed and attempts to censor the media increased across the country this year, said a report titled ‘Free Speech in India 2013’ from the media affairs website, the Hoot.

Eight journalists were killed in 2013 while covering stories, six of them during the August-September Muzaffarnagar riots in Uttar Pradesh. The other two journalists died in Chhattisgarh.

The report, released on Monday, also counted 94 instances of censorship by the government, up from 74 in 2012.

“I believe it very clear from the details of the report that censorship has definitely increased across different media,” said Geeta Seshu, consulting editor and coordinator of the Hoot’s Free Speech Hub. Seshu said free flow of information exposed journalists to threatening situations.

The report said there were 19 physical attacks on journalists, four of them by political parties, including an attempt by members of the Trinamool Congress to torch Barun Sengupta, a journalist with the television channel 24 Ghanta.

The report also highlighted increasing use of surveillance by both private and government bodies, notably the Central Monitoring System—a clandestine surveillance programme run by the central government from the Centre for Development of Telematics that surveys information transfer across different electronic platforms.

“The issue is that across large parts of the country, the dangers faced by many journalists are the same as that of Right to Information activists,” said Paranjoy Guha-Thakurta, a media analyst. Referring to the recent killing of journalist Sai Reddy in Chhattisgarh, allegedly by Maoists, Guha-Thakurta said that unlike in metros, the threat to journalists in inaccessible and remote parts of the country was acute.

“Members of the press in places such as Delhi ought to speak out for fellow professionals” in non-metro centres, he added.

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