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Chhattisgarh moots law to protect journalists
What to study?
For Prelims: Key provisions in the draft.
For Mains: Need for and significance of the law.
Context: A draft bill has been prepared by a committee to safeguard media persons in Chhattisgarh from harassment, intimidation and violence.
- The committee was set up in March to draft a law to foster an atmosphere wherein journalists could perform their work fearlessly.
The draft Chhattisgarh Protection of Mediapersons Act:
- It proposes that within 30 days of enactment of the law: “the government shall constitute a Committee for the Protection of Mediapersons to deal with complaints of harassment, intimidation or violence, or unfair prosecution and arrests of media persons”.
- Composition: The State-level committee would comprise a police officer not below the rank of the Additional Director General of Police, Head of the Department of Public Relations, three media persons of at least 12 years’ standing each, at least one of whom should be a woman.
- Punishment: In case an official wilfully neglects duties stipulated by the Act, he could be punished with imprisonment for a term, which may extend to one year. And the offences, cognizable but bailable, would be investigated by a police officer not below the rank of a Deputy Superintendent of Police.
- At the district-level, the Collector would head a Risk Management Unit. On receipt of a complaint, a member would have to immediately relay it to the Collector or the Superintendent of Police. Emergency protection measures would be put in place and within 24 hours, the unit would decide on further protection measures based on the threat perception.
- According to the draft Bill, “Person Who Requires Protection” means all registered media persons facing threats of harassment, intimidation or violence and includes other persons facing such threats on account of their connection with the registered media person.
Why do we need a law to protect journalists?
According to the not-for-profit organization, Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), between 1992 and 2017, 28 journalists were murdered in a premeditated or spontaneous act in direct relation to their work in India. These figures do not include those killed in military crossfire or while covering deadly assignments such as violent demonstrations.
- Among the major economies of the world belonging to the G-20 group, India has witnessed the fourth highest number of such killings related to journalistic work, behind Mexico (38), Russia (38), and Brazil (37).
- More worryingly, India features in the list of 13 high-impunity countries where an overwhelmingly large proportion of such murders have remained unsolved, according to a 2016 CPJ report. Keeping India company in this list are countries such as Somalia, Iraq, and Pakistan. Most journalists who have been murdered for their work covered politics and corruption.
Need of the hour:
To stop the assaults on journalists and writers, and to ensure justice when such assaults do take place, the country requires legal and institutional reforms as well as measures to plug weaknesses in policing. But above all, this requires greater political commitment to protect free speech and the freedom of the press.
Sources: the Hindu.