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Police must respect rights of journalists in Chattisgarh State, says IFJ

(IFJ/IFEX) - October 14, 2009 - The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) fully supports the union of working journalists in the central Indian state of Chattisgarh in its effort to uphold media rights when these are under increasing pressure as security forces escalate operations against a long-running Maoist insurgency.

According to IFJ sources, three journalists in the state were recently issued notices by police ordering them to reveal the sources of reports either published or broadcast.

Two journalists working for widely circulated Hindi-language dailies - Anil Mishra of Nai Duniya and Yashwant Yadav of Navbharat - were asked to reveal their sources by police in the district of Dantewada, for a report suggesting that innocent villagers were killed in an anti-insurgency operation by security forces in a remote southern part of the state.

In a separate case, Rakesh Shukla, of E-TV news channel, was asked to present himself before the local police in Kanker district, for broadcasting a Maoist claim of responsibility for the murder of a local political figure.

A senior police officer in the state was also reported to have sanctioned aggressive measures, including firing at journalists who cross into Chattisgarh from neighbouring districts of the state of Andhra Pradesh to report on anti-insurgency operations.

The local journalists' union, the Chattisgarh Shramjeevi Patrakar Sangh (CSPS), held a meeting on October 12 to discuss the threats. It resolved to undertake a major campaign to generate public awareness on media freedom issues in a situation of sharpening conflict.

"The IFJ reminds authorities in Chattisgarh that the public has a right to be informed about events occurring in the state, particularly in the context of the recent escalation of anti-insurgency operations and the heightened level of political rhetoric on the threat posed by the Maoist insurgency to national security," IFJ Asia-Pacific Director Jacqueline Park said.

Human rights concerns have been raised in the past in the context of anti-insurgency operations in the state. The IFJ has previously cautioned authorities against the tendency to view independent journalism as an enemy activity that lends comfort to insurgent groups.

"To ensure the maximum public awareness and endorsement of their security operations, authorities in Chattisgarh need to distance themselves from this mindset," Park said.

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