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Attack on press freedom: Manipur government at it again; Police team picks up editor

Sanaleibak Editor Hemantakumar Ningombam

Sanaleibak Editor Hemantakumar Ningombam was picked up by police allegedly for airing his opinion during a local cable TV discussion on the Manipur government’s ongoing drive against poppy plantations

TFM Desk

In yet another crackdown on freedom of expression by the Manipur government, Senior journalist and Editor of Sanaleibak daily newspaper Hemantakumar Ningombam was picked up by a team of Irilbung police allegedly for airing his opinion during a local cable TV discussion on the Manipur government’s ongoing drive against poppy plantations in the state as part of its “War on Drug 2.0”.

Hemantakumar’s take hits government where it hurts most?

During the discussion hour aired on a popular local cable TV network, the senior journalist, while praising the Manipur government’s drive against poppy plantations, said that the state government’s action reflects its sincerity and honesty this time. “There is so much talk about eradication of poppy cultivation and plantation. I feel the eradication of poppy cultivation should have been achieved much earlier and I regret the fact, we cannot still eradicate poppy cultivation,” he added.

The senior journalist further said, “I want to appeal to the government and the people that in our efforts to eradicate poppy plantations, the government should honestly genuflect (kneel down and pray) before only two women who are well-known. Only two women! I do not want to name these famous women.”

Sanaleibak Editor Hemantakumar Ningomba (Left) during the live discussion

He clarified that he was not saying that they can or did it by themselves. “All the government needs to do is to genuflect (kneel down) before these two women. The honourable chief minister should talk to them and rope them in to help save the state from drug menace,” he said.

To this, the host of the panel discussion chipped in with the example of Ravana’s navel where the arrow should strike.

Concurring with the example, Hemantakumar continued, “Only after that, poppy plantation in Manipur would be reduced to at least by half. Some policemen going to poppy-cultivated areas and slashing poppy plants and uploading a few photos of the same act will not suffice. This issue should be given adequate attention”

AMWJU, EGM warn government

Meanwhile, All Manipur Working Journalist Union (AMWJU) and Editors’ Guild, Manipur (EGM) came down heavily on the manner of the picking up of the Sanaleibak Editor by by a team of Irilbung Police Station, Imphal East from his residence in the early hours of Wednesday.

AMWJU president Wangkhemcha Shamjai and EGM president Khogendra Khomdram issued a joint press statement after a detailed discussion in a joint sitting of the journalists’ bodies held at the Manipur Press Club in Imphal. “Hemantakumar is a respected editor and is not an absconder and the manner how he was picked up for his statement in a panel discussion in a local TV channel affects his dignity and stature in the society,” said the statement.

AMWJU-EGM Statement

“The concerned officers could have simply invited him for a discussion during office hours as no case has been registered against him and he was set free after some hours,” it added.

The statement further said the meeting also resolved to place before the State Government to ensure that such unsavoury incidents do not recur in future. “If such avoidable incidents happen again, the journalist fraternity will not take it lying down and all efforts to safeguard the journalists of the state will be taken up, including legal action,” warned AMWJU and EGM.

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