Militants hold Manipur media to ransom

June 18th, 2008 - 4:05 pm ICT by IANS  

Imphal, June 18 (IANS) Separatist rebels have held the media to ransom in Manipur, forcing newspapers off the stands for two days after a militant faction threatened editors for publishing a statement by a rival group. All the nine major dailies from Imphal, Manipur’s capital, failed to come out Monday and Tuesday after the Lanheiba faction of the Kangleipak Communist Party (Military Council) issued a ’stop-press’ diktat over the publication of a statement by its rival faction by the same name.

“Newspapers have come out Wednesday after two days following a meeting of journalists. It has been decided that the media would avoid publishing or airing statements by a rebel faction targeting a rival faction,” Pradip Phanjoubam, Editor of the Imphal Free Press, an English daily, said.

Rebel threats to the media are common in Manipur, a state of 2.4 million people, where militants have shot and killed four journalists, including three editors, in the past few years.

Recently, another rebel group, the People’s Revolutionary Party of Kangleipak (PREPAK), had warned the media saying its personnel would be targeted if the statement issued by the other faction was published. This has prompted media houses to stop publication of all newspapers and TV news.

“The KCP faction that had issued the latest threat agreed to the decision by journalists Tuesday about not publishing or airing views by one rebel faction against another. But, this may be a temporary reprieve because another rebel group may issue a threat tomorrow,” a reporter of a local language daily said.

There are some 19 militant groups active in Manipur, bordering Myanmar, with demands ranging from secession to greater autonomy.

With militants wreaking havoc in the state despite the continued counter-insurgency operations, the central government has called for a ‘comprehensive action plan’ to fight militancy and suggested stern action against lawmakers hobnobbing with militants.

In April, a high-level central team led by union Cabinet Secretary K.M. Chandrasekhar reviewed the worsening security situation in Manipur for two days in the capital Imphal and admitted there were problems plaguing the state. Another significant issue that was discussed by the cabinet secretary during the security meeting in April was the alleged nexus between militants and legislators in Manipur.

Kidnappings for ransom or threats too are common.

On Tuesday, unidentified militants abducted two Airtel officials from Manipur’s Thoubal district. The police said efforts were on to trace the mobile telephone company’s officials.

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