Assam Pursues Journalist Protection Law


The media fraternity of Assam has raised voices for a special law for protection of journalists on duty. Taking cue from the August 28 Assam Bandh, which witnessed violence around the State including brutal attacks on duty-bound journalists in many places, various intellectuals and journalist groups have demanded for a special protection act immediately.

Mentionable is that the last Assam Bandh called by All Assam Minority Students Union (AAMSU) with 30 other organizations witnessed a mixed response from the people of the State, but violence gripped the State whole day. The Bandh supporters came to the streets with stick, sharp weapons on hands and at least 12 journalists faced attacks in Goalpara, Barpeta, Samaguri and Tezpur localities.

Not only the journalist community, human rights educator and advocates have also joined the chorus for a protection law for journalists on duty in Assam. Speaking to this writer, Dr Shyam Bhadra Medhi, a prominent human rights educator of northeast India, argues that proper journalism can immensely contribute for good governance in a democratic country like India.

“The journalists, who are committed to the society, should be supported by a special law. Unless they fell secured, many journalists may not take the risk of reporting hard and risky issues and then we will be deprived of sensitive and brave journalism,” said Dr Medhi, who served many districts of Assam as the deputy commissioner.

The statistics reveal that Assam has lost over 20 editor-journalists in the last two decades. The suspected perpetrators include surrendered militants, goons and government agencies. The authority and probe agencies have allegedly shown reluctance in safeguarding the interest of the media persons, which is established in the fact that not a single perpetrator involved in the killings of journalists has been punished under the law till date.

Satyen Sarma, an advocate of Gauhati High Court, also argued that the Indian democracy would lose its credential if the rights of media persons are curtailed.

“I was shocked to witness the attacks on journalists in many districts of Assam during the last Assam Bandh. The safety and security of media persons must be maintained. If some one attacks journalists on duty I term them as anti-national and anti-humans,” Sarma added.

Participating in a telephon conversation with a Guwahati based satellite news channel recently, two prominent journalists from Pakistan and Bangladesh also supported the move. Abdur Rauf, who is associated with Geo TV, argued that the country like Pakistan needs a special law for its working journalists for safeguarding the interest of media persons.

Similarly, Saleem Samad from Dhaka also supported the initiative for a special law for working journalists in conflict ridden countries like Bangladesh, India or Pakistan. He informed that the media fraternity of Bangladesh had maintained their agitation for same kind of a law.

The demand for a special protection law for journalists on duty has been pursued by many media organizations in India as well. National Union of Journalists, an active working journalists’ organization had demonstrated in the national capital city and also sent a memorandum to the President of India with their demand for a law like Working Journalist Protection Act.
Supporting for such a law, the Journalists’ Forum Assam has recently sent a memorandum to the State government for enacting such the law at the earliest. The outfit argues that if a national law will be a time-consuming affair, Assam can enact a State law immediately.

Nava Thakuria

Nava Thakuria is a Guwahati (Assam, Northeast India) based journalist

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