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IFJ Alert on Manipur media situation

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) stands in solidarity with media workers in Manipur, in India's North-East, who shut down newspapers last week for the third time in less than two years to protest persistent threats from underground armed groups.  

According to IFJ sources, the All-Manipur Working Journalists' Union (AMWJU) declared the mass closure after cadre of the Kangleipak Communist Party (KCP) visited media houses on October 26 to demand publication of a statement issued by the party's putative leader.  

In the statement, a faction of the KCP claimed responsibility for killing a local official for alleged criminal activity.  

Media outlets were at the same time told by a rival KCP faction that the statement and the person who issued it had no credibility, and newspapers would risk retaliation if they published the statement.  

"This is not the first time that journalists in Manipur have been caught in the crossfire between rival groups, each claiming responsibility for a particular action," IFJ Asia-Pacific Director Jacqueline Park said.  

"The IFJ strongly endorses the AMWJU action and urges all journalists in Manipur to stand firm in the face of these threats."  

The AMWJU organised the state-wide shutdown of newspapers in Manipur between October 27 and 29 and staged a mass rally on October 28, presenting a memorandum to the chief minister of Manipur state, demanding that the rights to free speech and a free press be respected. A sit-in demonstration at a prominent spot in Imphal, capital of Manipur, was also held.  

Newspapers only resumed publication following expressions of regret from both KCP factions.  

"The AMWJU has led efforts to deal with the multi-faceted threats that journalists face by adopting a code of conduct for media practitioners in situations of endemic conflict. This has been an example for many other journalists' organisations in South Asia", Park said.  

"We call on civil society in Manipur to support the struggle of the state's journalists for a safe and secure environment, so they can work to fulfill their responsibility to keep the public informed."  

November 2010