Journalists in Manipur had decided to sit on a strike at Keishampat Leimajam Leikai on the 14th of February 2021 from 11 am to 3 pm. The All Manipur Working Journalists Union (AMWJU) and the Editors Guild Manipur (EGM) passed a resolution that claimed the halt on publications and broadcast all over the state. News channels would lay washed out, and newspaper stands empty.
The Backstory Behind the Brawl
On the 13th of February 2021, ‘Poknapham’, the most widely distributed regional newspaper of Manipur and its sister publication ‘The People’s Chronicle’ at Keishampat came under attack. Around 6.30 pm that day, a grenade was used to bombard their office in Imphal. CCTV footage reveals that the attacker was a woman who came driving over a two-wheeler.
The grenade didn’t explode due to the public’s presence, but there was widespread chaos all over. Security personnel sent covered the area of attack to avoid further turmoil.
The Emergency of Protesting
The unsettling grenade incident triggered the need for a demonstration. The Editor’s Guild Manipur (EGM) and All Manipur Working Journalist’s Union (AMWJU) arrived upon a decision late on the night of the attacks, i.e., the 13th of February, 2021. They decided to go on a 48-hour work strike, suspending all forms of print and broadcast media.
Khogendro Khomdram, the president of Editor’s Guild Manipur (EGM), shared that the threat Poknapham received six months ago through the Bureau Chief’s WhatsApp connected well to the ongoing events.
Back then, the WhatsApp intimidation coerced the members to shut down for six months to avoid hazardous outcomes. To avoid press freedom from being breached, it was crucial to put themselves forward and lay a set of demands to assure their safety.
Khogendro speaks of the demands: one, the government find the culprit and book them under the law and two, the attacker comes forward and states their motive for the attack.
What the Protestors have to say?
S. Nengkhalun, the Secretary of Manipur Hill Journalist’s Union (MHJU), says that they consider media as the fourth pillar of democracy and such acts are attacks on journalism itself.
The situation was uncalled for. Many journalists in the protest said that the entire media fraternity was on the attack and the reason for the act was essential to know.
The Course of Action
During the initial 48-hour protest, the press demanded the attacker/ attacking party come forward and clarify their motives. The arrest of the same was to take place. However, no militant party in Manipur came about admitting it. The strike extended for another 48 hours.
Chief Minister, N. Biren Singh, urged them to get back to normalcy and set up a Special Investigation Team (SIT) headed by the Superintendent of Police to look into the matter. Individuals who contribute to the information on the arrest would receive a reward of ₹50,000. To ensure safety, the CM promised the deployment of security guards in all state newspaper offices.
With this said, Manipur media houses resumed functionality from the 26th of February 2021, Friday. After that opening for work, the journalists sent a memorandum to the Chief Minister assuring press safety and freedom.