Protecting Journalists – UPSC GS2

 Recent Incidents:
  • A 26-year-old television journalist who reported on illegal encroachment of land and the sale of ganja was hacked to death in Tamil Nadu.
  • Another journalist was found brutally murdered in a jungle on the outskirts of Bhopal.
  • A prominent journalist from Kashmir and the Chief Editor of Kashmir Times was shot dead by three militants in the heart of Srinagar, when he was returning home from office.
  • According to the United Nations, “Journalism is one of the most dangerous professions in the world”.
  • Attacks on journalists who dare to expose corruption and misdeeds of anti-social elements, or who do not toe the line of the establishment, have proved to be a threat to journalists the world over.
  • Between 2006 and 2019, over 1,200 journalists have been killed the world over.
Indian Scenario:
  • A report released by an NGO in 2019 states that 40 of the 198 journalists attacked in India between 2014 and 2019 died due to the attack.
  • The killing of journalists is more rampant in smaller towns, while the figures in metro towns are quite low. Only a few cases draw country-wide attention and impel the police to investigate the murder.
  • Over the last few years, India has been going down on the World Press Freedom Index.
  • In the annual reports of Reporters Without Borders, India has steadily gone down in the global index from a rank of 138 in 2018 to 140 in 2019, and further down to 142 in 2020.
Way forward:
  • There is a need for stringent laws to protect journalists.
  • Considering the rising trend in the number of journalists killed each year, the Chairman of the Press Council of India (PCI), counselled the government “to enact a special law for protection of journalists and speedy trial of cases of attacks and assaults”.
    • The PCI’s records indicate that 96% of the cases of attacks on journalists end up without conviction.
  • While it is estimated that one journalist is killed every four days, sadly, in just one out of every ten such cases, the killers get convicted, while the rest go unpunished.
The Maharashtra Example
  • Maharashtra has emerged as the first state in the country to enact a law to protect journalists.
  • Under the Maharashtra Media Persons and Media Institutions (Prevention of Violence and Damage or Loss to Property) Act, 2017, any attack on journalists would be non-bailable and cognisable, and would be investigated by an officer not below the rank of Deputy Superintendent of Police.
  • A conviction under this Act could lead to imprisonment of up to three years and/or a fine of up to ₹50,000.
  • The attacker will also have to compensate for medical treatment in case of injuries to the journalist and also pay for damage to any equipment.
  • Taking a cue from the Maharashtra law, Chhattisgarh is in the final stages of enacting a law known as the Chhattisgarh Protection of Mediapersons Act.
  • While these two states have taken the initiative to enact laws to protect journalists, other states have to soon follow.
Related Questions:
  • With journalists facing various kinds of harassment and false cases across the country, there is an urgent need to enact comprehensive legislations that protect media persons. Discuss

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