Attacks on the rise in India’s Orissa state

Everything, it seems, is growing in India. Bucking global trends, India’s media are expanding rapidly, reaching into the hinterlands following a wave of development and growing literacy. Industrial development is expanding, with explosive growth of mining and natural resource extraction. In Orissa state, historically poor and restive, these two trends are colliding, producing a spike in media attacks, according to a new report by journalist Geeta Seshu.

The exhaustive analysis published on The Hoot, a media issues website, is based on firsthand reporting from every corner of Orissa state. It concludes that journalists seeking to document the region’s industrial expansion have been singled out for attack. There have been 12 physical attacks recorded in 2010, and journalists told Seshu they feared reporting on allegations of government corruption.

One reason journalists feel vulnerable is that many are isolated. The national media outlets which have expanded their presence in Orissa employ local stringers who are expected to sell advertisements to support their reporting. “It is the stringers – in the field, closest to the scene of action in their district – who become the targets of local powers. They have no status, no documentation or identity proof of their role as journalists.”

Neither state officials nor the media have done much to protect these stringers, who bear the brunt of the violence and intimidation. “The lack of a strong and united journalist organization has facilitated the rampant attacks on the media,” the report concludes.