The CPM knows it very well that press freedom is a stumbling block in the way of achieving their goal. So, first of all, they try to convince their cadres that whatever Press is writing, broadcasting or telecasting about them are all wrong and motivated. Do not believe them. This is a routine lesson they used to impart in their weekly local committee meetings. With these kinds of repeated teachings, cadres become hard core dogmatists. Second step is that they start whispering campaign against the nationalist press through these cadres. In the third step they take the help of Marxists influenced hawkers union to disturb, if not stop, the distribution of newspapers (many newspapers e.g. daily Bartaman, Dainik Statesman, even at one time Ananda Bazar Patrika faced it, weekly papers like Swastika had to face such situation. These newspapers were familiar for their anti-CPM role.) or jam the telecasting system by blocking the supply of electricity (very recently Kolkata TV, ETV, and some other channels known to be anti establishment, had to face black out during news telecasting hours).
In these incidents, they had always been trying to play a third party'srole so that they could not be directly implicated with such allegations. But mind you, these are all old incidents. Over the period, things have changed a lot. Now, when they became convinced that their grip over the administration had been absolute, they had started showing their ugly faces with the help of unlimited and unchallenged power at their command. Even in the cases of intimidating, harassing and beating up journalists, goons and government agencies had been working hand in hand.
Since 1995, their policy was to beat up journalists openly and whenever journalists organisations like West Bengal Union of Journalists (an affiliate of NUJ-I) and other journalists?organisations went to the chief minister or information minister they would immediately apologise and would not forget to mention that ?look party cadres have become unruly, they are not abiding by the party dictum. Nevertheless we will definitely look into the matter.? This is our experience that nothing happened to those culprits afterwards. This type of ?blow hot and blow cold? policy was being pursued for some time.
But, in recent times, even this attitude of Marxist ministers to take a sober stand is totally absent rather they are in a belligerent mood to fight with the press. Because they know it for sure that ?information is power? and they cannot, under any circumstances, allow this power to be used against them. Hence they are out to control the press. First, take the instance of district newspapers?dailies and periodicals.
These newspapers are generally one-man show, especially the periodicals. For production of such papers, they are mainly dependent on the state government advertisements. The state government uses this as a weapon to control the journalism of these periodicals i.e. weeklies, fortnightlies, monthlies etc. They use this weapon to control the daily newspapers published from districts of West Bengal as well. Those who do not want to toe the government line; they have no place to get redressed of their grievances except the court of law. Sasanka Sekhar Sanyal committee set up by the government of West Bengal to look into the problems of small & medium newspapers in its report, submitted in 1980, had recommended setting up an Advertisement Advisory Committee in each district of the state. But the government had ignored this directive, which was binding on it, and fact remains that most of the districts are not having any such committee. But even with this autocratic attitude they could not bring all muffossil journalists or newspapers under their fold. If nobody or no newspaper has brought this matter to the notice of the Press Council of India, they themselves should initiate ?suo motto? action against West Bengal government to stop this undemocratic action.
In Kolkata and elsewhere Marxists with an ulterior motive had infiltrated in different professional bodies including journalists? and newspaper proprietors? organizations. With men, money and muscle power, they are really successful in bringing a large section of newspapers and media under their fold. Barring a few, almost all big newspapers and media are toeing their line. In many cases journalists are helpless as their proprietors have become the ?chamchas? of the ruling party.
At least three 24-hour news channels e.g. Akashbarta, 24-Ghanta & Star-Ananda have become the mouthpiece of Marxist government. Tara Bangla news channel, one of the foremost opponent of the government, was attacked by the CITU-men (CITU is a Marxist labour organization). On July 17, 2007 Hindustan Times (Kolkata edition) reported that ?Employees of a Bengali television channel were injured when a group of people attacked their office.?
One may wonder, why this abrupt attack on a particular channel? The fact remains that a regular news feature run by journalist Kabir Suman highlighting the misdeeds of CPI-M in this channel had earned tremendous popularity. This irked the comrades. Hence, this attack was to teach the journalist a good lesson. The CITU-men were shouting incriminating slogans by taking the name of Kabir Suman.
The latest incident which took place on July 20, 2007 at District Magistrate Court, Chandernagar, is an eye opener in the sense that CPI-M had instructed all its groups to beat journalists wherever and whenever they feel it necessary. In this court room, journalists were beaten up by those lawyers who are having their affiliation with CPM. But what was the immediate reason for such attack and that too by a group of lawyers? The answer is very simple. In this court ?Tapasi Malik rape and murder case? is going on. By now, it is well known that young Tapasi stood against illegal farm-land grabbed by CPM in Singur. She, on her own, was campaigning against the move of CPM. It is alleged that Debu Malik, a dreaded criminal and a sympathizer of CPM, along with his henchmen abducted Tapasi; gang raped her and then killed her. Media, both print & electronic, mounted heavy pressure on the administration to book the criminal and punish him. When Debu Malik was arrested, CPM shirked off its responsibility by saying that Debu is not a CPM member. But, when Suhrid Dutta, Zonal Secretary of the CPM, was arrested on the charge of hatching conspiracy to kill Tapasi, the CPM was taken aback and they immediately started campaigning against judiciary.
So, on July 20, when the hearing of Tapasi Malik murder case was going on, the left-minded lawyers had targeted the journalists. They said that it was because of your disproportionate publicity that Debu was not getting bail. It should be mentioned here that even on that day Debu was remanded to jail custody for another 14 days. This order infuriated the said lawyers and they pounced on the reporters. The Hindustan Times, Kolkata edition on July 21, reported the incident extensively.
Nandigram witnessed attacks on journalists on June 16 as three photo-journalists were fired at, allegedly by CPI-M cadres hiding in a brick kiln near Tekhali Bridge on Talpati canal. Mr. Suman Mondal, photographer of The Statesman and Dainik Statesman was injured in the shootout along with two others from national television channels. They were rushed to a local hospital. After lapse of some time police personnel from Nandigram rushed to rescue the journalists.
Both, print and electronic media have been vertically divided on Nandigram issue. Hence, journalists are identified accordingly. The pro-establishment journalists are welcome in Khejury. But the anti-establishment journalists are being harassed and beaten up there even today. On the other hand, the reverse situation is prevailing in Nandigram. So journalists coming here are sure to be heckled or beaten up either by the ruling party supporters or by the supporters of opposition parties. This is most unfortunate. But this situation is still prevailing there.
In another incident, in the month of May this year, trouble flared up centering the ill behaviour of hospital staff in children ward of a government hospital at Barasat, near Kolkata. On May 24, 2007 the situation became very much tensed as the child patients did not get any medicine or food for the whole day because of the inhuman attitude of the negligent hospital staff. Naturally patients? guardians and relatives became very much worried and agitated. They were shouting slogans against the management of the hospital. At about 11 p.m. reporters and photo journalists rushed to the place. TV cameramen started taking photographs of ailing children. All of a sudden, a group of hospital staff accompanied by local musclemen started beating the reporters and cameramen with iron rods. One of the miscreants, on the point of revolver, snatched gold chain, wrist watch and cash money from one of the reporters. They broke one camera of a photo journalist. At least six journalists suffered serious injuries.
It is surprising that when the hospital superintendent was approached to take action against the unruly staff and outsiders, he pleaded his ignorance about the presence of outsiders and musclemen inside the hospital to beat up the journalists. It is crystal clear that the muzzling press in West Bengal by the Marxist government is a well thought out policy and every wing of the party is solemnly abiding by this policy.