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Journalist and broadcasting pioneer threatened by Maoists in India

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) expresses its strong condemnation of a statement issued by the supposed command centre of the Maoist insurgency in the Indian state of Chhattisgarh, which directly targets Shubhranshu Choudhary, a widely respected journalist and pioneer in using new technologies to broaden public access to the media sphere.

Choudhary had filed a story on 27 May 2013 for the Hindi service of the BBC, suggesting that a lethal attack two days before, on a political convoy returning to the state capital of Raipur from a public engagement in the southern district of Dantewada, was the outcome of a leadership change and factional rivalry within the Maoist insurgency.

An estimated 31 people, including civilian bystanders, were killed in the bomb attack on the convoy, which was followed by a pitched gun-battle. Those killed on the spot included senior Congress leaders from Chhattisgarh who had travelled to Dantewada to launch the party's campaign for general elections to the state assembly, due before the end of the year.

V.C. Shukla, among the most senior Congress party leaders from Chhattisgarh, who was Minister for Information and Broadcasting in the Indian Union Cabinet in the mid-1970s and remembered for imposing a regime of censorship on the press during a national period of "emergency", died of injuries sustained in the attack on 11 June.

Choudhary's analysis of the calculations behind this attack attracted a seeming rebuke and a disguised threat from the "Special Zonal Committee" of the Maoist insurgency in the region, which in a statement issued on 5 June, accused him "knowingly or unknowingly", of becoming part of "the conspiracy" of the "ruling class" against the "party and the poor people of the country".

Chowdhary is alleged to have written "half truths" that have "maligned" the Maoist image.

The IFJ Asia-Pacific has found from its experience in South Asia and elsewhere, that this pattern of suggesting irreparable damage to the image of an insurgent unit, is often the prelude to more explicit threats and physical violence.

"We call for a public condemnation of this Maoist edict against a widely respected journalist from Chhattisgarh", said the IFJ Asia-Pacific.

"We recognise Chowdhary as a serious contributor to press freedom campaigns in India. Aside from his journalistic work, he has been instrumental in setting up CGNet Swara, a mobile phone based citizen journalism facility in Chhattisgarh that has earned worldwide attention for bringing otherwise excluded voices in to the public sphere".

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