As the Covid-19 pandemic has emerged as a severe health hazard to the Indian media community, several more prominent journalists engaged with Indian newspapers have fallen prey to the health disaster. The novel coronavirus now infects hundreds and perhaps even thousands of journalists as they play the role of corona-warriors along with the practicing doctors, nurses, health, sanitation, transportation workers, and police personnel.
Since 6 September we have lost six prominent journalists, all associated with print media outlets. They died within a dozen days to Covid-19. The latest of these was senior journalist Manoj Binwal who succumbed to Covid-19 complications in Indore in Madhya Pradesh. A former editor of the Hindi daily Dainik Bhaskar and lately engaged with Prajatantra daily, the 55-year old Binwal tested positive for the virus and was hospitalized where he died on 20 September 2020.
Just a day earlier, on 19 September, another senior journalist Ami Adhar Nidar aged 50 from Agra, died of Covid-19 at the Medanta hospital in Gurugram. Associated with the Hindi newspaper Dainik Jagaran, the popular journalist was hospitalized a few days earlier after he tested positive for Covid-19. He left behind his wife, son, and daughter.
On 18 September, sixty-eight-year-old editor Anil Srivastava from Basti in Jammu locality lost his life to Covid-19 complications. Srivastava worked for the United News of India for many years and died at the Basti medical college hospital. Survived by his wife and two sons, the journalist also edited local newspapers Vichar Parakh and PrakashTimes.
Also, on 18 September, Jabalpur, Madhya Pradesh based 60-year old journalist Harish Choubey who worked for Dainik Bhaskar, died in hospital after testing positive for the virus.
On 10 September, Abohar, Punjab based journalist Naresh Bajaj died of Covid-19 at 57. He worked as a correspondent for Sach Kahoon, a newspaper published from Sirsa. Bajaj was also very active as a social worker.
Thirty-year-old Ravinder Kumar from Una in Himachal Pradesh, who worked for Dainik Jagran, was sent to the hospital after developing Covid-19 symptoms of Covid-19. However, he died on the way to the hospital on 9 September. Kumar, who left behind his parents, wife, and a brother, was cremated following Covid-19 protocols.
Assam witnessed two Covid-19 journalist victims within 24 hours, where Udalguri based thirty-five-year-old correspondent Dhaneswar Rabha breathed his last at Guwahati medical college hospital on 6 September. Rabha is the first scribe in the Northeast region to succumb to Covid-19 complications and was otherwise suffering from severe renal problems. The soft-spoken reporter leaves behind his parents, wife, two children, and family.
On 7 September, senior journalist Ashim Dutta passed away at the Silchar medical college hospital. Dutta, who was 65, worked for a Bengali daily in Barak valley and suffered from kidney problems. He was admitted to the hospital after testing positive for Covid-19. Dutta leaves behind his wife, daughter, and family.
Several weeks back, Mumbai-based senior film-journalist Shyam Sarma, Nellore, Andhra Pradesh-based scribe Narayanam Seshacharyulu, Pune-based television reporter Pandurang Raikar, Kanpur-based television journalist Neelanshu Shukla, Patiala-based photojournalist Jai Deep, Tirupati-based television reporter Madhusudan Reddy, and video journalist M Parthasarathy succumbed to Covid-19 infections.
The list also includes television reporter Ramanathan and news videographer E Velmurugan from Chennai, news presenter Davinder Pal Singh from Chandigarh, television scribe Manoj Kumar from Hyderabad, print-journalist Pankaj Kulashrestha from Agra, and Orissa journalists Simanchal Panda, K Ch Ratnam, and Priyadarshi Patnaik.
Kolkata-based photojournalist Ronny Roy became the first Indian scribe to lose his battle against the dreaded virus. New Delhi scribe Tarun Sisodia killed himself while undergoing Covid-19 treatment at AIIMS. Maharashtra’s veteran journalist Ashok Churi, who edited the Marathi weekly Palghar Times, died at a Palghar based hospital.
The printer-publisher of Asomiya Khabar Rantu Das died at a Guwahati hospital, and tests afterward showed he had the Covid-19 infection.
Two dozen fatalities to Covid-19 – seven to violent incidents
For the record, India has lost far fewer journalists to violence since January 2020 than corona infection aggravated ailments. The robust news media community has witnessed the violent death or murder of seven journalists in separate incidents this year.
The last news of a journo-murder came from Phephna in the Ballia locality of Uttar Pradesh, where television journalist Ratan Singh was killed by his neighbors. Singh, 45, worked for Hindi news channel Sahara Samay and was targeted on the night of 24 August. Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath announced a Rs 10 lakh ex-gratia payment to his family, and the police promptly arrested a few suspects.
On 8 August, Bijendeep Tantia, a young Assamese scribe, was murdered at his rented office in Tinsukia town in Eastern Assam. Tantia, 32, was associated with private channel News Time Assam, and simultaneously ran a FaceBook portal Din Pratidin Northeast. The young reporter hailing from a tea-plantation family was found lying dead with severe injuries on his neck. The police have arrested the prime accused in the murder, a woman who has reportedly confessed to the crime.
On 22 July Madhya Pradesh journalist Sunil Tiwari aged 35, was beaten, stabbed, and shot to death in Niwari locality. Tiwari, who worked for a Gwalior-based Hindi newspaper, returned home in the evening when a group of criminals attacked him. The police arrested several individuals against whose illegal activities Tiwari wrote newspaper articles.
On the same day, Uttar Pradesh-based journalist Vikram Joshi succumbed to his injuries in a Ghaziabad hospital. Joshi, who was 45 years old, worked for local newspaper Jan Sagar Today. Joshi was attacked on 20 July by a group of goons who shot at him in front of his two minor daughters, as he had lodged a police complaint against some local criminals who were involved in various eve-teasing incidents. The police arrested nine persons suspecting their physical involvement in the murder.
On 29 June 2020, Ganta Naveen, a digital channel reporter of Andhra Pradesh, was murdered at Nandigama locality. Naveen, 27 years of age, developed enmity with some influential persons suspected of organized crime in his locality. The police arrested eight individuals in connection with the murder.
Another news portal reporter from Orissa, 40-year-old Aditya Kumar Ransingh, was killed on 16 February in Banki locality. The police arrested two criminals who were hostile to him.
The brutal murder of UP scribe Shubham Mani Tripathi (25) shocked the country as he continued to report against illegal sand miners even after receiving death threats from unknown individuals. Tripathi worked for Kanpur-based Hindi daily Kampu Mail and was shot dead in Brahmanagar, in Unnao locality on 19 June as he was returning home on a two-wheeler. The police arrested three individuals suspecting their role in the killing.
Although India witnessed nine journo-killings (violent deaths) in 2019, only one could be documented or proven as a case of targeted murder. The victim, 45-year-old K Satyanarayana, worked for Telugu daily Andhra Jyothy and faced the fate because of his journalistic activity. He was hacked to death on 15 October 2019. Local journalists claimed that Satyanarayana was targeted or earlier occasions too. Similarly, Bihar’s scribe Pradeep Mandal was also targeted by miscreants for his coverage against the liquor mafia in Dainik Jagran. However, Mandal survived the violent attack against him.
Indian mainstream news media affected by the pandemic
Apart from the fatalities and illness with the Covid-19 virus and the violence cutting down its far flung journalists, photographers and editors, the pandemic and the ensuing lockdown have profoundly affected the Indian mainstream news media industry’s circulation and ad revenues. Worried publishers citing shrunken ad revenues stopped printing physical newspapers. Others closed down smaller remote editions, reduced the number of pages, cut salaries, and even laid-off employees, including senior journalists. Only a few editors could raise voices against the arbitrary retrenchments while the rest though humiliated, continue to carry on.
Indian Printer and Publisher is one of the publications supporting World News Day and we will be publishing shared stories from around the world with an emphasis on stories from the Indian newsrooms such as The Hindu Business Line, The Quint, and The Indian Express that have made their stories available, as well as a couple of our own stories.
Our own stories concerning the education, publishing and print industries that we are putting forward to share in the celebration of World News Day are: Indian government – Stop Print! by Shardul Sharma Indian media fatalities to virus exceed those to violence by Nava Thakuria Indian print media to lose Rs 18,000 crore in FY 20-21 by Naresh Khanna The end of the great international trade shows? by Ron Augustin