The Editors Guild of India on Tuesday urged law enforcement agencies in Chhattisgarh to provide security to media professionals, particularly those on duty to cover the upcoming elections in the state. A video journalist working for state broadcaster Doordarshan was among three people killed in Dantewada district in a Maoist attack earlier in the day.
The Editors Guild said it was “saddened to learn of the deaths”, and added: “Creating a safe environment for media professionals to discharge their duties will be critical for ensuring freedom of the press.”
Video journalist Achyutanand Sahu was part of a three-member team of Doordarshan travelling for election-related coverage. They were caught in the cross-fire between security personnel and suspected Maoists. Two police officers – Sub-Inspector Rudra Pratap and Assistant Constable Mangalu – were also killed. Two police personnel were injured, while the other journalists with Sahu are safe, PTI reported.
The security personnel, who were part of a patrol team, opened fire after they came under attack from the insurgents around 10.30 am near Nilawaya village. Special Director General of Police DM Awasthi said the Maoists wanted to thwart road construction work in the area, reported ANI. “Naxalites had threatened to attack if the road construction work continued,” Awasthi said. “More anti-Naxalite operations will be conducted in the coming days.”
Awasthi said the attack was not related to the elections, and would not hamper the polling process. “We have a total of 650 companies of security forces for the first phase of Assembly elections,” he was quoted as saying.
The state is scheduled to go to the polls in two phases on November 12 and November 20.
‘A condemnable act of violence’
Union Minister of State for Information and Broadcasting Rajyavardhan Rathore said the ministry stands in solidarity with family of the cameraman. “We salute all those mediapersons who go for coverage in such dangerous situations, remember their bravery,” he said, according to ANI.
The minister said Doordarshan would give an ex-gratia amount of Rs 10 lakh to Sahu’s family and the Journalist Welfare Fund of the Press Information Bureau would provide Rs 5 lakh, PTI reported.
All assistance would be provided to Sahu’s family, said Rathore. “We will take care of his [Sahu’s] family,” he said.
Congress President Rahul Gandhi expressed sadness over the attack, while his party spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala blamed the Raman Singh government in Chhattisgarh for the incident. “The cowardly Raman Singh has no right to remain the chief minister of Chhattisgarh for even one more minute,” Surjewala said. “Just a few days are left, citizens of the Naxalism-hit state will uproot this incompetent and worthless government.”
Raman Singh described the incident as an “attack on democracy”, ANI reported. The chief minister said: “Naxalites never stop from executing their act of cowardice. As soon as elections approach they do something to affect it. Their goal is to spread terror. We will not be scared.”
The Telangana Pradesh Congress Committee condemned the killings, PTI reported. Spokesperson Shujath Ali, who earlier served as head of news in Doordarshan Chennai, said that the cameraperson’s family should be given a compensation of Rs 1 crore.
The Mumbai Press Club described the attack as a “highly condemnable act of violence”. “We condemn the killing and demand protection for mediapersons reporting from Naxal-affected areas,” it said.
National broadcaster Prasar Bharati also offered Sahu’s family its condolences. “Our prayers with his family during this difficult moment,” it posted on its official Twitter handle. Its CEO Shashi Shekhar expressed shock at Sahu’s killing and also saluted the CRPF personnel “who had to lay down their lives in the line of duty”.