On December 20, the acting President of All Manipur Working Journalists’ Union, Brozendra Ningomba had written to the Indian Journalists’ Union (IJU), giving his version of the matter of the arrest of Kishorchandra Wangkhem, a former TV anchor employed by the ISTV, and had clarified why a great section of media in the state is silent over the issue.
He had termed the issue as a ‘non-issue’, and had said that no one wants to talk about it. He had also pointed to the lack of support from the civil organisations and the insurgents.
He hinted that since there is no support from civil organisations and the underground rebels, the issue of Kishorchandra lacks merit.
It may be noted that Kishorchandra’s detention under National Security Act for 12 months for criticising the BJP-led Manipur government has been condemned from various quarters including journalist bodies like Indian Journalists’ Union (IJU), Press Council India (PCI) etc.
The IJU, in a press release, on December 3 had said that the Union does not approve the vulgar and indecent terms used by Kishorchandra, but the freedom of expression includes the right to offend. The Union, however, advised its journalists affiliated to the body to avoid vulgar language while posting critiques on social media.
The IJU demanded that the NSA detention be revoked and unconditional release of Kishorchandra. All Manipur Working Journalists’ Union (AMWJU) is affiliated to IJU.
What followed Brozendra’s letter to IJU was that it was learnt that the letter written by Brozendra Ningomba to IJU was not in consultation with any standing members of the Union, nor a meeting was called to discuss the matter, and it was all done at the president’s behest only.
Newsclick spoke to Sabina Inderjit, Secretary General of IJU. She said, “The IJU did in fact get a letter written by the acting president of AMWJU. But we would like to make one thing very clear. Whatever is happening in AMWJU is their internal matter. As far as IJU is concerned, it is the largest body of journalists in the country. We have always refrained from using foul language. The IJU does not support the language used by Kishorchandra in any form, and it was his own opinion. However, the largest term of NSA slapped on him has to be condemned. It is a definite misuse and abuse of NSA and it is not acceptable.”
After IJU made its stance very clear, Newsclick spoke to Paojel Chaoba of Imphal Free Press who is also a member of the standing committee of AMWJU. He told Newsclick, “The acting President has written the letter on his own accord, and we were not consulted before he wrote the letter”.
Read more: Manipur: Wangkhem Kishorchandra’s Arrest Points Towards a Larger Issue
In reply to Brozendra’s allegations that Kishorchandra was not a journalist and a mere TV anchor and news reader, he said, “Even if according to him, Kishorchandra is not a journalist, as a civilian also, we condemn the NSA. As a civilian also, detaining him under NSA has violated his rights which any human being has. The point is not that whether he was a journalist or not. The point is that for criticising the government and the CM, you cannot slap NSA for 12 months. This is a clear violation of freedom of speech especially after he was acquitted.”
The detention under NSA has drawn ire from various students’ unions, journalist bodies, human rights activists and political parties. The national media also has covered the issue to quite an extent since such a serious charge of detention has been slapped on Kishorchandra. But, it’s also imperative to point out that regional media in Manipur, to quite an extent, maintained silence over the issue barring some independent journalists and media houses like the Imphal Free Press.
This also raises an important question: why are only independent journalists covering Kishorchandra’s arrest and why has in-fact the acting president of AMWJU written to the IJU? Brozendra had, in his letter, further urged the IJU not to release any press statement about the arrested scribe, saying that it will not make any headway in the state government, and is useless. He also said that the condemnation letter of the IJU demanding Kishorchandra’s release has ruffled feathers in the media fraternity of the state, and threatened to pull out of the mother union (IJU).
Responding to this, Paojel Chaoba told Newsclick, “As far as Brozendra is concerned, I cannot speak for him. But definitely one of the reasons has to be that no media organisation wants to get into legal battles with the government.”
The controversy and “internal matter” of AMWJU doesn't seem to end here. AMWJU, in a press release, has informed that the standing committee of the union has conducted a meeting on December 22 in condemnation against a few journalists and some private individuals who have mocked and criticised the union and its workers on social media regarding the arrest of Wangkhem Kishorchandra.
Unless those journalists or private individuals who have mocked and derided the members of AMWJU present themselves before the union within three days, members of the union will take legal actions against them, the release informed.
The official statement of AMWJU forwarded to IJU on December 20 by the incumbent president of the union, Brozendra Ningombam was issued by taking a unanimous resolution by the members of the committee, it has clarified.
Read more: Manipuri Journalist Petitions HC Challenging Detention Under NSA