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Journalists' free movement restricted in Chhattisgarh state

(IFJ/IFEX) - March 23, 2011 - The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) is concerned at reports that journalists in the Indian state of Chhattisgarh were prevented from visiting the site of a major security operation against Maoist insurgents, to report on its aftermath.

According to reports today in two major English-language dailies, The Hindu and the Times of India, confirmed by IFJ sources, journalists travelling to the affected sites in the district of Dantewada in the south of the state were on occasion trailed by policemen and repeatedly blocked and told to turn back. The journalists were assigned to report on allegations that a number of tribal villages in the thickly forested district had been razed, and many inhabitants rendered homeless.

The first report suggesting the possibility of civilian suffering in the anti-insurgency operation, was broadcast over the mobile telephone-based community radio service and internet portal CGNet Swara, on March 18, on the basis of eye-witness accounts from the affected villages.

Given the difficulties of the terrain, established news media took a number of days to locate the relevant sites. The active effort by local police to deny access added to the already considerable difficulties that journalists face.

"The IFJ extends its support to the journalists who have been seeking to report on the ground realities in areas affected by the Maoist insurgency," said IFJ Asia-Pacific Director Jacqueline Park.

"Circumstances in these areas are challenging, and journalists must be allowed to function in an environment free of threats and harassment."

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