Silently effective. This is the course of protest that Editors of five Nagaland based newspapers have decided to take up against the notification issued by the General Staff Officer of the Assam Rifles in Nagaland on November 17. Leaving the editorial space blank in a newspaper is a significant decision and has expressed what words may not be enough to do. Tough to say what course of action the Assam Rifles authority in Nagaland or the office of the IGAR (N) may be planning to take up, but a powerful statement has been delivered, silently. And this is something which should not be brushed aside. Leaving the editorial space is not new to the media here in Manipur, for there have been quite a number of time in the past when Editors thought it better to lodge a silent protest rather than exercising their ‘lung power’. Accusing the media of being cosy to unlawful organisations is not something new here in the region, but it should be clear that the media is merely doing its job of disseminating information to the readers when they publish statements or reports of banned or unlawful organisations. In the present case and discerning from the joint statement issued by Editors of five Nagaland based newspapers on November 15, it is clear that the General Staff Officer of the Assam Rifles had more than hinted that by publishing statements of the NSCN (K), they are supporting the outfit, intentionally or otherwise. This sounds ludicrous for the fact stands that newspapers all over the world do carry statements of banned organisations. The media in Manipur too is no exception.
The matter is serious and the Assam Rifles authority should spell out their stand. Keeping mum would amount to saying that they are keen on silencing the voice of the media, which is against the tenets of democracy. It was something much more than an official notification, for in many ways it could also be taken as some sort of a list of dos and don’ts for the media in Nagaland and this is not acceptable. Time also right for the media houses in the North East region to close ranks and state their stand over the issue. As already noted here earlier, the media in Manipur knows how it is to work under pressure and the notification issued by a senior officer of the Assam Rifles can certainly be taken as some sort of a pressure mounted on the functioning of the media. This is unacceptable. If the Assam Rifles is of the belief and conviction that any media house is directly or indirectly supporting a banned organisation, then there is always the law Court to take up the matter with. There is also the Press Council of India. As an important institution of the Union Home Ministry, the Assam Rifles should know better than to issue a notification which has the potential to create misunderstanding and brand the media as a whole. Better it would be for everyone to retract the notification issued on October 15.