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Iboyaima Laithangbam
Date of Publish: 2017-04-27

Manipur newspaper Editor refuses to bow to insurgent outfit’s pressure, despite life threats

Khoirom Loyalakpa, editor of a vernacular newspaper in Manipur, The Naharolgi Thoudang, has been working in the office for over ten days with armed policemen guarding the press office. Around midnight, he and his joint editor Chandragupata a.k.a. Goutam are escorted to their homes which are also guarded. One proscribed insurgent outfit had asked Loyalakpa to collect Rs one crore from chief minister N. Biren Singh and then hand it over to one of its leaders. "Since the chief minister is your brother-in-law there should not be any hitches", the editor, surprised by the outfit’s demand, was told.

However he refused. He said, “I have faced bomb threats in my office, raids by the militants in my home. However to collect money on behalf an insurgent group from the chief minister is not only illegal but also unethical. I am ready to talk about press matters but shall never compromise my position".

When it was conveyed to the insurgents he was bluntly told that he and his family members shall face dire consequences. The insurgents also asked Goutam not to allow the editor to enter the press office. When he refused he was also given a similar threat.

Editors' Guild Manipur and All Manipur Working Journalists' union have strongly condemned the outfit and asked it to withdraw the threats. However there is no response so far from it.

In the insurgency afflicted Manipur threats to the editors and journalists are nothing new. It was R.K.Sanatomba, who was was the first editor to have been gunned down on January 30, 1993. Lalrohou Hmar, editor of The Shan was the second editor to have been killed by militants. The gunmen spared the young wife and their child from witnessing the horrendous killing since he was whisked away. There were six other killings. The latest victim was Dwijamani Thangjam, a television journalist who was taking visual of torching of a police van at Thangmeiband near Imphal on December 23, 2012. A police bullet killed him on the spot but no police personnel were booked.

In another incident of killing of Rishikanta Konsam, a sub editor of Imphal Free Press on November 17, 2008, it appeared that he was whisked away to a secluded place which can be reached only through a lane entrance of which is guarded by paramilitary personnel. The report of the inquiry body has never seen the light of the day.

Some other editors and journalists who were attacked with guns had however miraculously survived. On October 8, 2000 some armed Kuki militants intercepted the van near the international border n which this correspondent was travelling to meet some pro-democracy activists of Myanmar. We had to frogmarch in the mountains from 10 am till nightfall without even getting a glass of water.

But once they knew our identity at the camp in a tribal village they were all smiles and offered royal treatment with curried wild boar and wild chicken meats. After two nights of captivity we were set free along the NH 2. We could see the car with a red beacon in which journalists from Imphal had come in search of me. But we had developed the Stockholm syndrome and did not shout at the car which was slowing vanishing around the bend of the highway. Some days later the outfit issued a statement saying that the kidnapping and detention were to protest against the step motherly coverage of its activity in the local media.

On one occasion some journalists were returning to Imphal from Moreh, the border town when some militants armed with antique rifles intercepted and extorted cash.

The editors in Manipur maintain that they shall never throw overboard their editorial rights since they are accountable for the inflammatory and some seditious words in the press releases. Some years back the editors refused to publish the press release of an outfit. Senior editors were honey-trapped into a tea party which turned out to be a house arrest for the whole night. They were released only early next morning when the newspaper copies with the spiked release published in the front page hit the newsstands. But Loyakpa does not know if he will be come out of the woods, if at all.

Iboyaima Laithangbam

( Iboyaima Laithangbam is an independent journalist and can be reached at imphalreport@gmail.com )

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