India was the most dangerous South Asian country for journalists last year, second only to Pakistan, with seven journalists getting killed in the course of work, according to a report by the International Federation of Journalists. Under Fire: Press Freedom in South Asia 2008-09, says there has been a spike in violence, threats and intimidation against journalists in India. The 2007-08 report had documented the death of four media workers, of which three were support staff at the Tamil daily Dinakaran, who were victims of large scale violence directed at the paper.
This year’s report paints a bleak picture of South Asia, with 25 journalists losing their lives across the region’s hot spots, covering armed groups and insurgency. Nine journalists were killed in Pakistan, four in Sri Lanka, three in Afghanistan and two in Nepal.
IFJ noted the “spike in violent incidents reported from India, which has been in relative terms a more secure environment for journalism,” in a statement about the report. Sukumar Muralidharan, who edited the report, said coupled with the effects of the economic downturn, the violent incidents were affecting the morale of journalists. “The spike in killing of journalists is a new phenomenon for India. Journalists have always faced numerous other challenges, such as possible layoffs, poor compensation, constant threats from political actors and armed groups, and other such; but the level of lethal threats has risen to a new high this year. This has seriously damaged professional morale, which was already on a low ebb on account of the turbulence in the economy and the prospect of large-scale job losses,” he said.