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India


-  Area: 3,287,260 sq. km.
-  Population: 1,049,549,000
-  Languages: English, 15 official languages
-  Type of state: federal republic
-  Head of state: President Abdul Kalam
-  Head of government: Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee

India - 2004 Annual Report

The Indian press refuses to submit to the authoritarian excesses of the federal government and some provincial authorities. This was especially so in the southeastern state of Tamil Nadu where the editor of an independent publication was detained without justification under an anti-terrorist law. In Kashmir and the northeastern states, journalists were still the victims of violence by separatists and security forces.

India has more news media than any other country in the world. Proud of its independence, the Indian press resisted the attacks of the nationalist government and some judges and provincial authorities who disliked its bold use of freedom of expression. India’s electronic media have emerged as the most diverse and dynamic in Asia.
More than a hundred commercial TV stations are now operating in the different parts of the country, broadcasting in English, Hindi and a dozen local languages. The news media world is being shaken up by new TV channels on the western model, especially those owned by the group led by Australian-born media mogul Rupert Murdoch. In March 2003, the Murdoch group launched Star News, a 24-hour news channel in Hindi broadcast by cable. More than 40 million Indian homes are now connected to cable. Five other news channels appeared in April. To avoid criticism from the nationalist government or religious leaders, the Murdoch group’s Indian flagship, Star TV, offered programmes on the importance of moral values. Sensitive political issues were rarely tackled. Privately-owned religious TV channels such as Aastha (Faith) and Sanskar (Tradition) were developed in 2003. They offered 24-hour religious programming, especially in the states where there has been religious revival and resurgence in Hindu nationalism such as Gujarat and Uttar Pradesh. A political commentator voiced concern that these channels could be used for political ends in the next elections.
The Indian print media, especially the ten or so major English-language dailies, try to play the role of fourth estate. A government minister was forced to resign in November after a report was published in the Sunday supplement of The Express accusing him of taking kickbacks. The TV stations screened footage the same day showing him receiving cash from the representatives of a mining company. The staff of the news website Tehelka.com were still the target of harassment by federal authorities bent on making them pay for their sensational revelations of corruption. After announcing the launch of a hard-copy version in August, Tehelka.com editor Tarun Tejpal said he was determined to turn the future magazine into a key actor in constructive journalism that was "free, fair and fearless."
Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee used the state news media, especially the national TV channel Doordarshan, to brag about the government’s performance. But checks and balances came into play. In October, two months before legislative elections in five Indian states, the electoral commission ordered the government to stop publishing articles and announcements favouring the prime minister’s party. Vajpayee was accused of using public funds to tout his achievements.
In 2003, the government promised to scrap a 47-year-old ban on international news agency dispatches being directly published or broadcast by the Indian news media. The federal government also continued to promote certain media as part of its campaign against poverty and illiteracy. The information minister announced, for example, in February that a thousand community radio stations would be set up in schools around the country with programming aimed at improving the quality of education.
In Kashmir and in the northeastern states, with their separatist and Marxist guerrilla groups, journalists were still caught between a rock and hard place. The rebels threatened them with reprisals if they did not publish their press releases. And if they did, the security forces and the local authorities accused them of supporting the rebels and did not hesitate to arrest them or raid their offices. Two journalists were killed in 2003 and dozens of others were physically attacked in these two regions. One journalist was reported missing in the north-east after being kidnapped by a separatist group.

Three journalists killed
Vikram Singh Bhist, a cameraman with the agency Asian News International who was paralysed for life in the 2001 attack on the Indian parliament, died on 9 January 2003 from internal haemorrhaging after falling from his wheelchair. Five gunmen stormed the parliament in New Delhi on 13 December 2001, killing eight policemen and a gardener before being brought down by the Indian security forces. Bhist, who went to cover the incident, was hit in the spine in the course of the shootout. He was hospitalised at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) where he was forced to remain immobile for many months until released in November 2002. Two Muslims from the Indian part of Kashmir were sentenced to death in December 2002 for planning the attack.
Parvaz Mohammed Sultan, 35, was shot in the neck on 31 January in Srinagar, the summer capital of the north-western state of Jammu and Kashmir, by two gunmen who entered his home-cum-office in the Press Enclave neighbourhood where most of the media are located. He died of his injuries. The owner and editor of a local press agency, the News and Feature Alliance (NAFA), he was also a correspondent for the Indian newspaper Quami Awaaz and a contributor to the Urdu-language daily Chattan. The police suspected that he was killed by armed separatists. His colleagues said he had often received threats from separatist groups that wanted his agency to use their releases. Some journalists told Reporters Without Borders that Sultan had also investigated scandals involving local officials. Everyone who was questioned agreed that Sultan was killed because of his work as a journalist. The police had still not carried out any serious investigation by the end of the year.
Parmanand Goyal of the Hindi-language national daily Punjab Kesari was shot dead outside his home in Kaithal (Haryana state, north of New Delhi) on 18 September. The daily The Tribune quoted his son as saying three men came to Goyal’s home in the evening and asked him to stop writing critical articles about the police and a local politician. But a few minutes later, they gunned him down and fled. Goyal was president of the Haryana Journalists Union. He had been detained for a few days in June on "corruption" charges that were said by his family and many journalists to have been trumped up. Journalists demonstrated to demand the arrest of his killers, saying he was murdered because of what he wrote. The police had not made any arrests by the end of the year.
At least two other journalists were murdered in 2003 but, at the end of the year, it was still impossible to say if their deaths were linked to their work.
Dineswar Brahma, a correspondent for the regional daily Ajir Batori in Dhubir (in the northeastern state of Assam) was murdered in his village, Banyaguri, on 24 March. The police said he was killed by armed separatists of the Bodo Liberation Tigers (BLT) because he had written articles criticising the group. The Assam Journalists Union called for an investigation into the motives for the murder.
Javed Shah, a politician and editor of the daily Watan (Nation), was killed by separatists on 28 August in an assault on a hotel in Srinagar (Kashmir) where he had installed the offices of his daily. Three other persons, including one of his bodyguards, were killed in the attack. The former leader of a separatist group, Shah was elected as a provincial representative for the ruling party in the mid-1990s. Journalists in Srinagar said he was viewed as a traitor to the cause of Kashmir’s independence and was probably murdered because of his statements criticising the separatists.

A journalist kidnapped
In November, local newspapers in the northeastern state of Assam quoted rebel sources as saying that Indra Mohan Hakasam, a correspondent in Goalpara for the Guwahati-based, Assamese-language daily Amar Assam, had been shot dead by his abductors from the separatist United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA). Hakasam’s family had received no word of him since he was kidnapped on 24 June from his home by armed ULFA activists Doleng Rava and Sanjib Rava. His wife, Sabriti Hakasam, told Reporters Without Borders’s regional correspondent he was abducted because of his bold and independent reporting. She refused to believe he was dead until the ULFA brought her evidence. The Journalists Union of Assam (JUA) held a rally on 21 November to demand that the ULFA say what had happened. But there was still no word at the end of the year.

Five journalists imprisoned
Plain-clothes police detectives detained R. R. Gopal, the editor of the Tamil-language biweekly Nakkheeran, as he was leaving his office in the Triplicane district of Chennai, in the southeastern state of Tamil Nadu, on 11 April 2003. Nakkheeran is well-known for revealing scandals implicating Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Selvi J. Jayalalithaa’s first administration in the early 1990s. The police claimed they found a pistol on Gopal, as well as leaflets of the Tamil Nadu Liberation Army, an outlawed separatist movement.
He was held at the headquarters of the plain-clothes police and charged with sedition and illegal possession of a firearm. He was interrogated throughout the night, while dozens of journalists who went to the plain-clothes police headquarters were denied access, with the result that journalists staged spontaneous demonstrations. The next day, a magistrate placed Gopal in custody until 25 April at the Chennai central prison. He was charged under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA), becoming the first journalist to be accused under this controversial law in India.
A few weeks later, Gopal told his lawyers about the harassment to which he was subjected by the police while in custody. One of his colleagues, A. Kamaraj, said Gopal was locked up in a room in the Chintadripet police station and interrogated for several hours in his underwear. The police then reportedly took him by force to Satyamangalam forest, the presumed hideout of the notorious bandit Veerappan, with the aim of fabricating evidence of links between him and Veerappan. They made him pose in front of a police photographer, threatening to kill him if he refused. "All these incidents confirm our fears that our editor could be subjected to serious harassment that could even put his life in danger," Kamaraj said.
When he appeared in court in Chennai, Gopal said he had feared for his life while in detention. He said the police tried to get him to make a statement implicating former Chief Minister Muthuvel Karunanidhi and other leading figures in a scandal concerning the hunt for Veerappan. The police also interrogated him about the disappearance of a police informer, believed by the police to have been killed by Veerappan’s gang. After being held for eight months in Chennai prison, Gopal was freed on bail by the Tamil Nadu high court on 20 December. Gopal described his release as the first blow against the "autocratic" Prevention of Terrorism Act. He continued to face charges of conspiracy and possession of a firearm.
Ghulam Mohiudin Bhat, the editor of the local agency Kashmir Press Service (KPS), was arrested in New Delhi on 9 May. His brother, with whom he publishes a newspaper in Srinagar, was also detained. The authorities accused them of political links with a Kashmiri separatist group, Hezb-ul-Mujahedeen. The police searched Bhat’s home at the time of his arrest, reportedly finding a large sum of money, a revolver, a camera installed inside a watch and documents linked to his political activities. Bhat and his brother were charged under the anti-terrorist law. Some journalists in Srinagar said they had nothing to do with the separatists and that the authorities had sought a pretext to arrest them. On the basis of the information available at the end of the year, Reporters Without Borders was not able to say they were being held because of what they wrote.

Three journalists were released in 2003.
Iftikhar Gilani, the correspondent of the Indian daily, The Kashmir Times, and two Pakistani newspapers (Daily Times and The Nation), was released from Tehar prison in New Delhi on 13 January 2003 and went back to work two days later. On leaving prison he said his case was a lesson for everyone and especially those journalists who had believed the prosecutor’s theories without checking the facts. He also called for the repeal of the Official Secrets Act, under which he had been held for seven months.
Gilani was detained on 9 June 2002 by a team of policemen and tax officials. The police accused him first of fraud, then pornography and finally of having plans of the Indian military presence in Kashmir on his laptop. He was formally charged on 10 June 2002 under the Official Secrets Act. Journalists in Kashmir held demonstrations calling for his release all the time he was held. Reporters Without Borders said in September: "The charge of spying... is not based on any concrete evidence."
In late June 2002, Gilani’s lawyer demonstrated to the court handling his case that the documents he had on his laptop were freely available on an Internet site. An Indian military intelligence official confirmed to the court on 23 December 2002 that nothing secret had been found on Gilani’s computer. As a result, the Indian authorities were forced to drop their case and, on 10 January 2003, asked the court to release him.
Kumar Badal, a reporter with the news website Tehelka.com, was released on bail of about 1,000 euros on 13 January after six months in detention. Voicing relief that Badal had finally been set free, Tehelka.com editor Tarun Tejpal said he and his staff had been repeating for two years that they were the victims of reprisals. On the day of Badal’s release, the federal police tried to prevent it on the pretext that the investigation was not yet complete. Although free, Badal was ordered to reside in New Delhi and report to the Central Bureau of Investigation on the first Monday of each month. He was also banned from visiting the northern district of Saharanpur where the original complaint was brought against him.
Reporter P. Sivasubramanian of the Tamil-language biweekly Nakkheeran in the southeastern state of Tamil Nadu was released in May. He had been arrested in the neighbouring state of Karnataka in November 2001 under the Arms Act for alleged complicity with a gang led by a bandit known as Veerappan. In 2002, police added a charge of support for the Tamil Tigers. Nakkeeran editor R. R. Gopal claimed that the real reason for Sivasubramanian’s arrest was a series of reports about abuses by special forces of the Karnataka state police, especially against women, during a manhunt for Veerappan.

Two journalists detained
Sunesh Kumar, a reporter with the commercial television channel Sun TV, was arrested in the southeastern city of Madras on 3 February 2003 as a result of a complaint by a lawyer accusing him and his crew of entering a courtroom in the metropolitan court of Saidapet, Suresh, without permission. During the next two days, several local journalists’ associations protested against the arrest, which was carried out without any preliminary investigation, and called on the Madras high court chief justice to intervene. Kumar was freed on bail on 5 February.
M. Ramana Murthy, the editor of the Telugu-language weekly Vijayaviharam, was arrested in the southern city of Hyderabad on 18 July by police who claimed they had found explosives in commercial premises belonging to the magazine. He was taken to the police station for questioning about his links with Maoist rebels, but he was released a few hours later. Murthy said the police planted the explosives in order to arrest him under the anti-terrorist law.

At least 15 journalists physically attacked
Six journalists received injuries at the hands of the police outside a courthouse in the town of Kanpur in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh on 13 February 2003. They had gone to cover the trial of well-known local politician Raja Bhaiyya, but all the news media were denied access to the courtroom. When reporters tried to question the defendant as he left the courthouse, the police reacted with violence.
Somnath Arya, a journalist with a national Hindi-language daily, was found unconscious on a bank of the Ganges in the district of Bhagalpur (in the northeastern state of Bihar) on 23 April. He was reportedly beaten up by a gang and tossed into the river during the night because of his articles about the illegal sale of gutka (chewing tobacco), which is widespread in the region despite being banned by the provincial government. He was put in intensive care in Bhagalpur hospital. The police said they were seeking the arrest of three suspects identified as Devendra Paswan, Akhil Paswan and Vijay Choudhry.
Joginder Singh Solanki, a crime reporter with the daily Punjab Kesari, was shot several times in the head in the courtyard of his Delhi residence on his return home from work on 27 April. He was rushed to Guru Teg Bahadur hospital where he nearly died. Thereafter he made an amazing recovery and was back at work 10 days later. For years, Solanki had been writing about Pratap Gujjar, a local gangster wanted by the Delhi police. The police gave Solanki bodyguards after he received several death threats from Gujjar in 2002, but the threats never stopped. In fact, they stepped up during the two weeks prior to the attempt on his life in April. A new wanted notice was issued for Gujjar offering a reward of 15,000 rupees (about 250 euros).
An angry group attacked members of the staff of the Urdu-language weekly Ahtisab in Kashmir on 30 May and ransacked its offices. The newspaper blamed the attack on a local political organisation, the Popular Action Committee. In its most recent issue, Ahtisab had accused pro-separatist leader Mirwaiz Umar Farooq of failing to practice what he preached to the region’s religious and civil society leaders.
Iftikhar Gilani, the daily Kashmir Times’ New Delhi bureau chief, was attacked by members of the VHP, a Hindu nationalist party, while covering a political meeting at the start of August. He was briefly detained by police after the incident despite showing his press card.
Ejaz Nadeem of the press agency Asia News International was manhandled by members of the Border Security Force when he went to interview the state tourism minister in Srinagar (Kashmir) on 2 August. They then searched his home and stole some of his belongings.
Ashwini Kumar Tripathi of the New Delhi-based TV channel Rozana and his crew were roughed up by police in Lucknow, in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, on 11 August while covering an official visit to the city by President Abdul Kalam. Although they had official accreditation, police refused to let them through a security checkpoint. An altercation ensued and Tripathi was badly beaten. He had to be hospitalised for multiple fractures to the back and hands. After criticism from other journalists, a police spokesman described the incident as "attempted murder" and said those responsible would be sanctioned.
Photographers Rafiq Maqbool of the US news agency, The Associated Press, and Sayeed Muzaffar of the local Srinagar Times newspaper suffered minor injuries on 17 October in an exchange of shots during an attack by Islamist separatist rebels in Srinagar (Kashmir).

At least 50 journalists threatened
Dr. Abd-ar-Rabb, the head of a Pakistan-based Islamist separatist group, Tehrik-ul-Mujahedeen, made death threats on 29 April 2003 against anyone writing articles that harmed the separatist rebels fighting the Indian government. The threats were made in a dispatch carried by Current News Service (CNS), a news agency based in Srinagar. Without naming any newspaper or news agency, Abd-ar-Rabb referred to "seven local dailies and a well-known news agency that work for the Indian intelligence agencies and are paid by them." They would be killed if they continued on this path, he warned.
Some 40 journalists were refused entry to the New Delhi home of Venkaiah Naidu, the president of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, when they went to interview him about an imminent cabinet reshuffle on 22 May. When the journalists insisted on meeting him, one of the guards at the gate pulled out his revolver and threatened to kill them if they did not leave immediately. A fight broke out between the journalists and the guards. Naidu subsequently gave the journalists an official apology, described the use of a weapon to make a threat as "very serious," and said he would ask the police to investigate.
Three television journalists, Jitendra Dixit of Star News, Sanjay Singh of NDTV and Mandar Parab of Sahara TV, received telephone threats of reprisals and prosecution on 21 November after preparing reports about criminal organisations in the western city of Bombay. The three reporters filed complaints.

Harassment and obstruction
Police surveillance of journalists in the western state of Maharashtra increased noticeably in January 2003, especially of those who had worked in the Persian Gulf as they were suspected of being influenced by Islamist organisations. The intelligence agencies systematically collected and checked articles viewed as anti-Hindu. The police in Aurangabad also monitored the movements of journalists’ family members. Around this time, several Muslim youths were arrested in Maharashtra on suspicion of involvement in a December 2002 bombing in Bombay.
Fourteen Indian newspapers that had been accused in December 2002 of contempt of court for reporting a sex scandal implicating three judges in the southwestern state of Karnataka were ordered by the Karnataka state high court on 8 January to again specify the name and job title of all the executives and staff involved. A total of 56 persons (reporters, editors, printers and publishers) with publications that included The Times of India, The New Indian Express, Kannada Prabha, The Week, and Outlook, were accused of tarnishing the image of the judiciary. A hearing was postponed until 22 January, when lawyers presented their arguments to the court. The high court on 17 March finally indicted executives and journalists of 11 of the 14 newspapers for publishing information without checking the facts. The court rejected a request by the defence, which pleaded not guilty, that the charges should be dropped for the sake of press freedom. The lawyers for the newspapers announced that they would take the case to the supreme court, but the supreme court had not issued any ruling by the end of 2003.
The high court of the southern state of Kerala on 9 January banned the news media from covering the trial of judge J.M. James, accused of attacking a motorcyclist the previous month. The assault was reported in the news media at the time and thereafter the authorities, concerned about the consequences, tried to prevent the press from getting any information about the investigation.
Two persons awaiting trial in Tihar prison on charges of possessing military documents under the Official Secrets Act filed complaints with a New Delhi court on 6 and 14 January against India Today editor Aroon Purie and two of his reporters, Prabhu Chawla and Shishir Gupta. The two detainees argued in their complaints that the three journalists should also be charged under the Official Secrets Act with revealing military secrets and endangering national security because their daily had published a report and the text of two secret letters revealing Indian army plans. The Kashmir Times said the detainees hoped to get the charges against themselves dismissed by making the judges see that the India Today journalists had committed a greater offence than they had, but were not being prosecuted.
Federal minister of information and broadcasting Sushma Swaraj on 14 January suspended a new HIV/AIDS awareness campaign being broadcast by the public TV station Doordarshan. The campaign was the first of its kind in India, but Swaraj said the spots were "indecent." They did more to encourage sexual relations than discourage the transmission of HIV, she said.
The Jammu and Kashmir state government stopped buying advertising space from the Kashmir Observer at the end of January. Officials confirmed to the newspaper’s editors that it had been dropped from the list of news media receiving advertising. On 15 January, Kashmir Observer editor Sajjad Haider had run an editorial condemning the state government’s position towards his newspaper and the delays in paying for advertising, which he described as a "subtle and insidious form of coercion." The government should remember that newspapers were supposed to act solely in the public interest, he added. Haider is a son-in-law of Molvi Abbas Ansari, one of the leaders of the separatist organisation known as the Hurriyat Conference. This family tie may have been part of the reason for the boycott. The newspaper has also been suspected of illegally holding money sent from abroad for use by the separatist movement. Because of the conflict that has riven Kashmir since 1990, major firms have left the region, depriving newspapers of advertising revenue. State advertising and government announcements have therefore become the main source of financing for a daily newspaper such as the Kashmir Observer.
A judge in the southeastern state of Tamil Nadu issued a warrant in February for the arrest of R. R. Gopal, the editor of the biweekly Nakkheeran, who had half a dozen judicial cases pending against him. In the preceding weeks Gopal had been interrogated several times by police, who were trying to implicate him in two murders blamed on a bandit known as Veerappan. Gopal went into hiding to avoid arrest and in March obtained a provisional release order from the high court in the city of Chennai in anticipation of any eventual arrest.
In response to a request by the National Union of Journalists (NUJ), the Lucknow high court in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh issued a revision on 21 February of the ruling originally issued on 20 August 2002 regarding media coverage of the legal dispute over ownership of the holy site of Ayodhya, where both a Hindu temple and a mosque were built in the course of the centuries. But the new ruling was even more restrictive that the original one, which banned the news media from publishing statements by either of the parties to the dispute. In addition to banning the views of either party, the new ruling said the media could write about the dispute only after a verdict had been handed down and only on the basis of original legal documents. No interviews could be published. Journalists would continue to be denied access to the courtroom. And the news media were banned from going to the site, where excavations were under way to gather evidence.
On 4 March, a documentary on the February 2002 sectarian riots in the western state of Gujarat, entitled Aakrosh (Explosion), was refused the broadcast licence which every television production needs in order to be screened publicly. The Central Bureau of Film Certification, responsible for checking content, said the documentary, which consists of interviews with survivors of the riots, could incite new religious tension between the Hindu and Muslim communities. A wave of violence was sparked in this region of India in 2002 when a Muslim mob set fire to a train carrying Hindu activists. In all, some 2,000 people died. The authorities said the documentary gave a "bad image of the government and the police," who failed to control the situation. The makers of Aakrosh appealed against the decision.
A large bomb went off on 4 March outside the premises of Sunchari Samachar, a Nepalese-language daily published in Siliguri, in the district of Darjeeling (in the northeastern state of West Bengal). There were no casualties. The attack may have been linked to the newspaper’s coverage of the situation in the Darjeeling Gorkha autonomous hill council region. The newspaper, which has a circulation of about 25,000, was banned by the Gorkha authorities in 1998. Nonetheless, the editor insisted after the attack that the newspaper had good relations with the Gorkha leaders, who once headed a guerrilla movement.
M.K. Ramdas, a journalist with the news website Asianet, was charged with conspiracy by the local judicial authorities in the southern state of Kerala at the start of March. Members of the Union of Profession Journalists of Kerala demonstrated on 8 March against this accusation and all the repressive measures adopted by the state authorities against the independent press.
Vasundra Raje, the head of a wing of the ruling BJP in the northwestern state of Rajasthan, was reported on 12 March to have set up a "secret" unit to monitor the work of journalists and any criticism targeted at himself.
The government announced on 18 March that foreign investment in the news and current affairs TV channels broadcast in India was to be limited to 26 per cent. Existing TV channels with foreign investment over this limit were given a year to satisfy the new requirement. Recent arrivals to Indian television such as the channel Star News were told to file a new request for permission to broadcast. Information and broadcasting minister Ravi Shankar Prasad provided further details about the new regulations on 26 March. News channels that were broadcast in India would have to register in India and a majority of their executives would have to reside there. They would moreover have to provide the details of any foreigner employed for more than 60 days.
The government of the southeastern state of Tamil Nadu, led by Selvi J. Jayalalithaa, filed 23 libel suits in April against Indians newspapers, including the dailies The Hindu and Dhinakaran.
The adoption of a new freedom of information act, approved by parliament during the winter 2002 session, was shelved by the government until further notice in April. The daily Asian Age said the government preferred to protect the interests of bureaucrats and politicians who could be forced under the proposed law to provide information about their management of public affairs.
The attorney general of India, Soli Sorabjee, told the supreme court on 23 April that journalists would have to reveal their sources if justified by the needs of an investigation into terrorism. Neither journalists nor lawyers had any privileges when the country’s interests and security was at stake, he said. His interpretation of the anti-terrorist law that was adopted in August 2002 on the government’s initiative was widely criticised by journalists such as the president of the New Delhi Union of Journalists, Shailendra Pandey, who said it constituted a restriction on press freedom.
A car-bomb went off outside the studios of the public Radio Kashmir in Srinagar (Kashmir) on 26 April. The explosion was immediately followed by a shootout between separatists and police inside the radio station that left two policemen and three Muslim rebels dead. The attack was claimed by Al-Madina and Harkat-ul-Mujahedeen, two Muslim rebel groups based in Pakistan.
A journalist known as Dhananjayan, a correspondent for the Tamil-language daily Dinamalar in the southeastern town of Gudiyattam, was banished from his community in early May for his critical reporting about the Temple Festival, one of the area’s most important religious events. Dhananjayan had written several articles criticising its poor organisation, heavy drinking by young participants, and the lack of security for women. But the population was particularly incensed by his latest article suggesting it was financed by dirty money. He was called before a council of elders and banished for "anti-community" activities.
Three Islamic organisations, Save Kashmir Movement, Al-Nasreen and Al-Madina, threatened on 26 May to sue a number of newspapers and magazines and obstruct their circulation in Kashmir on the grounds that they were financed by the Jammu and Kashmir state assembly. This public financing compromised their "journalistic objectivity," the three separatist organisations said, referring to "Delhi-based newspapers."
Cable TV operators in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh went on strike on 26 May to protest against a 30 per cent entertainment tax and the frequent police raids they have to endure.
Citing a lack of proof, a West Bengal court on 2 July acquitted Burmese journalist Soe Myint of all charges against him in the November 1990 hijacking of a Thai Airways plane. He and another Burmese dissident forced the plane to land in India, where he has been a refugee ever since.
A New Delhi court on 19 July rejected the libel suite brought by Samata Party former president Jaya Jaitly against Tehelka.com editor Tarun Tejpal over reports implicating him in corruption scandals. The court said Tejpal was not guilty of any crime.
The government of the western state of Gujarat on 15 August brought a complaint against the national daily The Indian Express, the regional daily Divya Baskar and human rights activist Nafisa Ali for inciting communal violence. The newspapers had published statements by Ali in which she defended the rights of the Muslim community in Gujarat and accused its chief minister, Narendra Modi of the Hindu Nationalist Party, of promoting religious enmity. A former Miss India, Ali said the youth of Gujarat should take care not to create "a new Bin Laden or a new Narendra Modi."
The federal government on 18 August banned FM Channel, a local radio station based in the western city of Bombay, from broadcasting news. The authorities had filed a complaint in June 2002 about programmes deemed to be in violation of the station’s licence. They said they were also monitoring the programming of several other local stations whose licences do not include the broadcasting of news reports.
The government of the eastern state of West Bengal banned journalists from entering the state’s hospitals at the start of November following a squabble between doctors and a group of journalists. Journalists’ associations in the state protested against the decision and chief minister Buddhadev Bhattacharjee finally lifted the ban in mid-November.
The speaker of the assembly of the southeastern state of Tamil Nadu on 7 November issued orders for the imprisonment of five executives and staffers of the national daily The Hindu - publisher S. Rangarajan, managing editor Malini Parthasarathy, editor N. Ravi, Tamil Nadu bureau chief V. Jayanth and reporter Radha Venkatesan. They had all just been sentenced to two weeks in prison for breach of parliamentary privileges over of a series of articles, especially in April, criticising the repressive policies of Tamil Nadu’s populist chief minister, Jayaram Jayalalithaa. The same day, some 20 policemen raided the officers of The Hindu’s bureau in Madras, the capital of Tamil Nadu. The journalists fled to avoid arrest.
The next day, the car of The Hindu’s editor in chief, N. Ram, was searched in Bengalore, the capital of the neighbouring state of Karnataka. Meanwhile, S. Selvam, the managing editor of Murasoli, a Tamil-language newspaper that supports the separatist Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam party, was given a similar sentence for publishing a translation of one of the offending articles. The federal government condemned the Tamil Nadu assembly. A day of protest was staged in Madras on 9 November. Several hundred journalists went on hunger strike in solidarity. At the same time, The Hindu’s journalists appealed to the supreme court, which quashed the arrest orders on 10 November. The next day, The Hindu got the federal government to protect its offices with federal police. After the chief minister criticised this move and insisted that the state police posed no threat to The Hindu’s journalists, this newspaper withdrew its request for federal protection on 12 November.
A New Delhi judge on 13 November questioned Altaf Hussain, a stringer for the BBC in Srinagar (Kashmir), about the call he received in December 2000 on his mobile telephone from a group of Islamist activist claiming responsibility for an attack in New Delhi. The New Delhi police had gone to Hussain’s home and questioned him after he received the call. Hussain’s wife, the mobile’s owner, was also summoned by the judge.
Nakkheeran editor R. R. Gopal was the target of surveillance and harassment by Tamil Nadu state police after his release on bail on 20 December (see above). Plain-clothes police parked outside his home and his newspaper’s office. Gopal told Reporters Without Borders he was under threat from the police, who had already used violence against him on several occasions. He was still facing charges under the Prevention of Terrorism Act.
The Indian military prevented a dozen journalists from going to the ceremony on 26 December at which leaders of the rebel ULFA movement surrendered in Tezpur (in the northeastern province of Assam). Some reporters were manhandled by soldiers.



Asia Introduction - 2004 Annual Report
Afghanistan
Australia
Bangladesh
Bhutan
Brunei
Burma
Cambodia
China
East Timor
Fiji
Indonesia
Japan
Kiribati
Laos
Malaysia
Maldives
Mongolia
Nepal
New Zealand
North Korea
Pakistan
Papua New Guinea
Philippines
Samoa
Singapore
Solomon Islands
South Korea
Sri Lanka
Taiwan
Thailand
Tonga
Vietnam

by continent
2004 Americas Annual Report
2004 Asia Annual Report
2004 Africa Annual Report
2004 North Africa and the Middle East Annual Report
2004 Europe Annual Report

Annual report 2003