Nagaland Page editor on journalism under shadow of AFSPA
Monalisa Changkija, Editor of Nagaland Page, on the challenges of doing journalism under the shadow of the Armed Forces (Special) Powers Act, 1958
Nov 18, 2015
On October 24, 2015, the editors of five Nagaland newspapers – Nagaland Post, Nagaland Page, Morung Express, Eastern Mirror and Capi – received a letter from the paramilitary force, Assam Rifles. Signed by the force’s Public Relations Officer with the subject, “Media Support to Unlawful Association”, the letter asked the editors of the dailies to “refrain from publishing any material which would unnecessarily incite the public and disrupt the existing peace in the State”. The letter said the newspapers had violated the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act of 1967 by carrying articles based on statements issued by the banned outfit, National Social Council of Nagaland (Khaplang). Protesting against the letter, Morung Express, Eastern Mirror and Nagaland Page left their editorial space blank on Monday.
In an email interview, Nagaland Page’s editor, Monalisa Changkija, talks about the rationale behind the move, the way ahead, and the challenges of doing journalism under the shadow of the Armed Forces (Special) Powers Act, 1958. Here are edited excerpts of the interview:
- Was the notification sent to you by Assam Rifles advisory in nature? Or are you in any way legally obliged to follow the notification?
No it was not advisory. I think lawyers would argue that we are not legally obliged to follow the notification. However, you must understand that the Armed Forces (Special) Powers Act, 1958, is in force and enforced in Nagaland and so is the Prevention of Unlawful Activities Act, thus, the security forces have a pretty good run deciding the “implementation” of the two Acts. I will not say much as I’m assuming that you are well aware of the situation in Nagaland since over 60 years.
- Have you ever been asked by the Army or any paramilitary force to not report on any extremist organisation?
To my knowledge, the Assam Rifles has sent such a notice for the first time. But you must understand that the media in Nagaland is not just 25 to 30 years old. Our first newspaper – Ao Milan – started in 1932 or 1934. However, more newspapers started since the mid/late 1960s, which were all weeklies, and you must understand that even publishing weeklies was not an easy task considering the level of development, or under-development, at that point of our history. Moreover, the political situation was not convivial either — what with the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, 1958 (AFSPA) in force right from that time. So it shouldn’t surprise anyone if such notices were formally issued to Nagaland newspapers in those earlier days, or even in the 1970s and 1980s, by the Army or the Assam Rifles.
But it is not always such “notices” through which the security forces here intimidate the local press. Having completed 30 years in this profession in April this year, I have personally experienced the numerous ways the security forces here resort to, to muzzle media freedom in Nagaland. It is only since 1997, after the ceasefire between the NSCN (IM) and after about a year later with the NSCN (K), the security forces here have toned down and have actually re-invented themselves as the “friends” of our people — before then, it was more or less a state of military rule with the writ of the AFSPA looming large over our heads. Still, it must be said that despite the ceasefires between the government of India and various non-state actors here, the AFSPA is still in force and enforced here. Hence, in one form or the other, martial rule continues. It has become more evident after the abrogation of the ceasefire between the government of India and the NSCN (K).
- Going ahead, would you heed to the notification or would you continue to report on the NSCN (K)?
Since on November 16, 2015, the government of India has notified/declared the NSCN (K) as a terrorist organisation/group, we would have to look at the finer details. However, editorial decision on what constitutes news will not be compromised
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Read the joint statement issued by the editors of the five newspapers here.
Also read 'Nagaland newspapers published with blank editorial space', source: Hindustan Times
Mumbai Press Club
Article posted on 18/11/2015
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