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India 21 April 2006

Armed separatists kidnap editors, threaten newspaper in Manipur

Reporters Without Borders voiced outrage today at the behaviour of militant groups in the northeastern state of Manipur and said it backed the six regional dailies that did not publish on 19 April in protest against the action of the Kangleipak Communist Party (KCP) in abducting their editors and threatening the Imphal Free Press newspaper.

“We appeal to the Manipur state government to do everything possible to protect journalists who are the targets of reprisals by militant groups,” the press freedom organisation said.

Six newspaper editors were taken hostage on 15 April after being invited to a news conference by leaders of the KCP, a separatist group. They were freed on 17 April after their newspapers published a KCP statement commemorating the party’s creation in 1980. The newspapers had previously refused to publish the statement.

The KCP also announced that it was banning publication of the Imphal Free Press, an English-language daily, for three months for supposedly misrepresenting the content of its statement. The newspaper has continued to publish in defiance of the ban.

The newspapers all left their editorial columns blank in a show of protest on 18 April, while journalists staged demonstrations. The next day, none of them appeared. “If no newspapers have been published today, it is because we want to tell the world that press freedom cannot be restricted,” said Rajesh Hijam, the editor of the English-language Sanghai Express.

In February, the KCP claimed responsibility for an attack in which Ratan Luwangcha of the daily Poknapham was badly injured. At least four journalists have been murdered in Manipur state since 2003.

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