Militant threats force journalists in Manipur to cease work

BY Syed Zarir Hussain| IN Media Practice | 18/04/2002
Militant threats force journalists in Manipur to cease work

Militant threats force journalists in Manipur to cease work


Guwahati, Sep 28 (IANS) An indefinite strike by journalists to protest attempts by separatists to muzzle media freedom in Manipur hit publication of daily newspapers for the second straight day Friday.

"We shall meet later today to discuss the future course of action, but one thing is for sure, we are not going to be cowed down by pressure from the underground groups," said a spokesman of the All Manipur Working Journalists Union (AMWJU) from Manipur`s capital Imphal.

Newspaper editors and journalists of at least 50 English and vernacular publications, including a news portal from Manipur, decided to cease work following threats from two outlawed rebel groups over publication of a news story.

"The United National Liberation Front (UNLF) wanted all newspapers to carry a news item on the kidnapping of a student leader by unidentified miscreants, while the People`s Liberation Army (PLA) had threatened editors with dire consequences if the story was published," the spokesman said.

"The threats and counter-threats by the two rival underground groups have led us to call the strike."

Police said unidentified gunmen abducted Sanatomba Singh, a leader of the Manipur University Students` Union on Monday. He was later released.

"The two rival groups was trying to outsmart the other over the kidnapping and that led to the strike by the newspapers," a police official said.

The UNLF and the PLA, both influential militant groups, are fighting for independent homelands in Manipur. There are at least 19 rebel groups active in the state, bordering Myanmar, with demands ranging from secession to greater autonomy and the right to self-determination.

"It is very unfortunate and such threats and interference does not bode well for free and fair functioning of the media," Pradip Phanjoubam, editor of the Imphal Free Press, a leading English daily, told IANS by telephone from Imphal.

Militants in Manipur have killed at least five journalists during the past one-decade, besides intimidation and threats to newspapers over publication of stories.

More than 10,000 lives have been lost to insurgency in Manipur during the past two decades.

--Indo-Asian News Service



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