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Sunday, 1 November 2015

2 nov 2015

prepared by ashok sharma

The Hindu: November 2, 2015 01:42 IST

Threatened by intolerance

Moody's Analytics, N.R. Narayana Murthy, the well-respected founder of Infosys, and now Raghuram Rajan, the Governor of the Reserve Bank of India, have all added heft to the chorus of voices warning that growing intolerance and bellicose behaviour threaten economic development, the promise of which had won Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his party an overwhelming electoral mandate last year. In an unequivocal message, Moody's Analytics noted that controversial comments by members of the Bharatiya Janata Party, including belligerent provocation of various minorities, had fanned ethnic tensions. Mr. Modi needs to not just distance himself from their nationalist jibes, but firmly rein them in, or his government risks losing credibility among global investors, the economic risk analysis sister unit of Moody's Investors Service observed. Mr. Murthy, a member of the Prime Minister's Council on Trade and Industry during Dr. Manmohan Singh's term, speaking in a televised discussion on NDTV, said there was considerable fear among the minorities today. He cautioned that no country could make economic progress unless it removed strife and reassured its minorities. And Dr. Rajan, who has earned a reputation for being as measured as he is outspoken, stressed to students graduating from Delhi's Indian Institute of Technology that tolerance and respect of alternative viewpoints were imperative for an economy to advance. Stressing that India's tradition of debate in an environment of respect and tolerance was worth fighting to protect, Dr. Rajan said it would be a great patriotic act to do so. This was a not-so-veiled retort to the ultra-nationalists who are quick to question the patriotism of all citizens holding a point of view different to theirs. Clearly, none of this can simply be dismissed as "manufactured" dissent, as certain senior leaders in Mr. Modi's government and in the BJP have sought to term the protests of scientists, historians, artists and writers.

Just 18 months ago, Mr. Modi termed his party's electoral victory a mandate for development. That he has since allowed or, more benignly, failed to restrain the extreme and divisive voices both within the government and outside among the BJP and its ideological allies in the larger Sangh Parivar, is a matter of grave concern, as their exclusionary and at times incendiary agenda militates against the very economic development that he has repeatedly stressed upon. Given the economic headwinds of tepid international demand for India's exports, widespread market volatility and legislative hurdles to implementing reform measures such as the Goods and Services Tax, Mr. Modi faces a moment of truth for his leadership of the political economy. If he fails to decisively turn the tide and quell the belligerence of his party and its allies like the Shiv Sena, and to simultaneously reassure the nation's citizens that he is the Prime Minister of all Indians, he may well end up risking economic growth as the fissiparous forces retard progress and demand.


·        heft

Lift or carry (something heavy).


·        bel·li·cose

Demonstrating aggression and willingness to fight.


·        o·ver·whelm·ing

Very great in amount.


·        un·e·quiv·o·cal

Leaving no doubt; unambiguous.


·        bel·lig·er·ent

Hostile and aggressive.


·        gibe

An insulting or mocking remark; a taunt.


·        strife

Angry or bitter disagreement over fundamental issues; conflict.


·        veil

Cover with or as though with a veil.


·        re·tort

Say something in answer to a remark or accusation, typically in a sharp, angry, or wittily incisive manner.


·        dis·sent

Hold or express opinions that are at variance with those previously, commonly, or officially expressed.


·        be·nign

Gentle; kindly.


·        tep·id

(especially of a liquid) only slightly warm; lukewarm.


·        fis·sip·a·rous

Inclined to cause or undergo division into separate parts or groups.


·        quell

Put an end to (a rebellion or other disorder), typically by the use of force.


The Hindu: November 2, 2015 01:40 IST

Case against coercion

After 35 years, China is set to change its one-child policy, allowing all couples to have at most two children. Since its introduction in 1980 with the aim of slowing population growth in the world's most populous country, an estimated 400 million births have been prevented in China. From 5.5 births per woman in 1970, the country's fertility rate is now well below the replacement level of 2.1. The policy also led to countless forced abortions, maternal and child deaths, untold trauma especially to mothers, and one of the world's most skewed sex ratios. Yet, it is difficult to offer unqualified praise for China's decision. For one, the limit on family size has simply moved from one child to two children, and coercive restrictions on what should be a private decision remain. Second, the decision has been taken in response to the decline in China's working population relative to its elderly population. China's dependancy ratio — the ratio of children and elderly to its working age population — has declined from 63.4 in 1950 to 34.5 in 2010, as against 56.3 for India, meaning far fewer working people support a far larger number of dependants. All countries will move through cycles of demographic dividends followed by rapid ageing, and must plan for their own unique challenges without intervening in family lives to engineer change.

India too has had its experiments with state coercion in limiting family size. Undoubtedly the worst of these were the horrific violations during the Emergency, when Sanjay Gandhi spearheaded a sterilisation campaign that included carting off thousands of men against their wishes to camps, where many died. In the late-1990s and early-2000s, 11 States enacted laws restricting eligibility in local body elections to persons with two or fewer children; research shows that this move did have the impact of lowering family sizes in the general population, but it also worsened the sex ratio. India's push for female sterilisation as the preferred means of family planning, with "targets" set for field workers, financial incentives and limited information for the impoverished women undergoing these surgical procedures, often nudges sterilisation drives from voluntary into coercive territory. None of these methods will work without high human costs, that the poorest should not be paying. Every country in the world, and India's southern States, lowered fertility rates without state coercion but as an immediate effect of education for women, better access to health, and rising incomes. Right-wing organisations in India even today raise the bogey of the Muslim population explosion, despite all evidence to the contrary, and have made a case for forced family planning. China — and India's latent fascists — would do well to abandon forced limits on family size, and allow human progress to chart its natural course.


·        trau·ma

A deeply distressing or disturbing experience.


·        co·er·cive

Relating to or using force or threats.


·        spear·head

Lead (an attack or movement


·        sterilisation

Sterilization: the act of making an organism barren or infertile (unable to reproduce)


·        nudge

Prod (someone) gently, typically with one's elbow, in order to draw their attention to something


·        fas·cist

An advocate or follower of fascism.


·        fas·cism

An authoritarian and nationalistic right-wing system of government and social organization


·        a·ban·don

Give up completely (a course of action, a practice, or a way of thinking).



Business Standard

More than incentives

India's merchandise exports fell by a little more than a quarter in September this year, marking the 10th consecutive monthly decline and raising serious questions about the government's plans to revive economic growth through a boost to manufacturing. Imports too fell by a similar margin over those in the same month last year - confirming that industrial demand at home continues to remain weak. Although the trade deficit decreased - down to $85 billion in the first half of 2015-16 compared to $97 billion in the same period last year, the government's policy makers are obviously not happy about these numbers. Last week's decision to offer a host of incentives for exporters is a reflection of that concern. Instead of acceding to the exporters' demand for announcing an interest subvention scheme, the government has focused on such export incentives that help exporting firms reduce their import costs and improve manufacturing competitiveness through lower duties.

The instrument used by the government to offer these incentives is the Merchandise Exports from India Scheme or MEIS that was announced early this year as part of the new five-year trade policy. The scheme already enables exporters of around 4,900 items to claim duty credit scrips determined at a rate of two to five per cent of their export earnings which they can use for paying a wide range of duties like customs and excise including service tax. The scrips' popularity among exporters is on the rise as these are transferable and units located in special economic zones are also eligible. The latest decision extends the coverage of MEIS to include 110 more items with export potential. The new export sectors to be covered under MEIS include sports goods, medical equipment, processed products of natural rubber, chemicals and plastics. In some items, the rate at which the duty credit scrips are valued has been raised. As a result, over 2,200 export products would get either higher MEIS rates or these incentives would now be available for exports to more countries. According to one estimate, the revised MEIS would now cover over 55 per cent of India's total exports.

The government will incur an additional cost of Rs 3,000 crore by way of foregone revenues, raising the total annual financial burden of MEIS on the exchequer to Rs 21,000 crore. The effectiveness of MEIS and its extension to new sectors, therefore, need to be properly evaluated. It has to be conceded that schemes such as MEIS will have a limited impact on growing exports or making that growth sustainable. At best, such measures are palliatives by nature and do not address the more fundamental weaknesses in India's exports sector. Sustainable export growth in a global environment where economic activity is slowing is a challenge that cannot be met by only such incentives. The government's policy makers must review the Indian manufacturing sector's competitiveness from the twin perspectives of the rupee's exchange rate and the current level of market access for Indian goods so that adequate policy responses can be framed. The Indian currency continues to be overvalued against the dollar even as India's competitors in the exports market do not enjoy a similar disadvantage. Adding to these constraints are recent developments, where international trade agreements by countries like the one concluded recently by 12 countries under the Trans-Pacific Partnership, accounting for 40 per cent of global income, will deny Indian exporters easy access to these markets. Both these factors are significant hurdles to India's exports and merely providing MEIS incentives can only make a marginal impact.


·        ac·cede

Assent or agree to a demand, request, or treaty.



·        A grant of money, especially from a government.


·        mere·ly

Just; only.



Indian Express

Warning signals

Last week, Moody's Analytics, the economic research and analysis division of Moody's Corporation, warned Prime Minister Narendra Modi about growing "ethnic tensions" in the country. "Modi must keep his members in check or risk losing domestic and global credibility," said the report titled "India Outlook: Searching for Potential". With several writers, artists and scientists returning awards, pressure is mounting on the prime minister to take serious cognisance of the unease, but this is the first time a major global institution has expressed concern over the recent political controversies in India. The cautionary note comes at a time when the government is celebrating the improvement in India's ranking, from 134 to 130, in the World Bank's ease of doing business index. It is instructive to note that in April, soon after the Union budget, Moody's Investors Service, also part of Moody's Corporation, had upgraded India's sovereign rating outlook from "stable" to "positive", citing the reform measures by the NDA government. At that time, the growth outlook for the current financial year ranged between 8.1-8.5 per cent. Six months later, that estimate stands at 7.6 per cent. Over the course of the year, other agencies and institutions, including the RBI, have revised the growth estimates downwards. The worry is that a government ill at ease with itself will not focus on the issues that plague the economy.

Agrarian distress, for instance. The rising prices of pulses might be receiving the bulk of attention, yet it is neither the only nor the biggest agrarian challenge facing the government. Reportedly, according to India's meteorological department, almost half the districts in the country received deficit rainfall this year. Five states have already declared a drought, but these cover just one-third of the affected districts. With adverse climatic conditions likely to continue well into 2016, rural incomes and, consequently, demand will remain depressed. It is not just farmers who are stressed. The recent report by the Swiss financial services firm, Credit Suisse, has shown that the financial strain experienced by 10 large Indian corporate groups has intensified over the last three years. Add to that the poor financial health of public-sector banks, and it appears that business activity may not pick up in a hurry, despite the interest rate cuts by the RBI.

So what has gone wrong since early April? On the economic policy front, the government has failed to push through crucial legislation. These include the GST bill, the land acquisition bill and labour reforms. Second, increasing fears of a climate of intolerance gaining ground have sharpened these failures. No wonder, then, the alarm raised by Moody's: "…it is unclear whether India can deliver the promised reforms and hit its growth potential".


·        mount

Climb up (stairs, a hill, or other rising surface).


·        cog·ni·zance

Knowledge, awareness, or notice.


·        a·grar·i·an

Of or relating to cultivated land or the cultivation of land



Nov 02 2015 : The Times of India (Ahmedabad)

Bihar's Final Lap

As Bihar polls get into their last phase, where Nitish and NDA really score

Votes are now in for 186 of Bihar's 243 assembly seats. Voters in the last remaining phase of the election will cast their ballots on November 5. The Bihar poll matters because it is much more than just about Bihar. Nationally , the results will shape the political direction of BJP as well as its internal power dynamics. Within Bihar, it is a matter of sheer political survival for chief minister Nitish Kumar as well as Lalu Prasad. Both sides are desperate to win. This is why we have seen such shrill political rhetoric from both sides ­ from jungle raj to the DNA of Biharis versus Baharis (outsiders), from talk of shaitans (devils), brahm-pishach (super-demons) and nar-bhakshi (cannibals) to warnings of celebratory crackers in Pakistan.

Nitish's plus point is that he is generally well regarded for development work done in Bihar. His minus point is that JD(U) has been forced to concede too many seats to RJD and Congress in order to make the Grand Alliance work. While JD (U) and RJD are contesting 101 seats each, Congress will be contesting 41. The limited share of seats JD(U) could garner may well be part of a Faustian bargain that Nitish had to strike with Lalu: It's a quid pro quo for Lalu standing down for Nitish as the Grand Alliance's CM candidate.

But that suggests the NDA's weak point too: while the Grand Alliance has a clear (and popular) CM candidate, NDA has none. The risk with making Modi and Amit Shah the key figures in a Bihar assembly poll is that the `Bihari versus bahari' jibe might well turn out to be a telling one.

The rhetoric around Muslims, in particular, has increased in recent days because they have a significant presence in 10 of the 16 districts voting in the last two phases. On paper, if today's alliances had existed in 2014, Grand Alliance would have got 145 seats and NDA 92. Elections though are not fought on paper and the key for both sides is how many of their voters can be transferred into their new alliances. While reservations and beef politics have dominated much of the campaign, for most voters this is really about their well-being and development. Both sides claim to stand for development and the verdict may well boil down to who voters believe will actually deliver it to them.


·        shrill

(of a voice or sound) high-pitched and piercing.


·        gar·ner

Gather or collect (something, especially information or approval).


·        faustian

Pertaining to or resembling or befitting Faust or Faustus especially in insatiably striving for worldly knowledge and power even at the price of spiritual values; "a Faustian pact with the Devil"


·        Quid pro quo ("something for something" in Latin) means an exchange of goods or services, where one transfer is contingent upon the other.


Nov 02 2015 : The Economic Times (Mumbai)

Fickle Tax Laws Hurt Foreign Investors

It is absurd that foreign portfolio investors (FPIs) are facing fresh income-tax queries after the government granted them a retrospective exemption from the minimum alternate tax (MAT), based on the recommendations of the Justice A P Shah panel. However, FPIs will now reportedly have to convince tax authorities that they do not have a permanent establishment (PE) here to escape the tax. Foreign institutional investors now FPIs, have been in relentless fear that tax authorities could construe their domestic custodian as a PE in India, mak ing them liable to pay tax.

The government must come out with a clear communiqué on what constitutes a PE, and not leave it to interpretation. Waf fling on the promise to scrap MAT on FPIs could create mayhem on the markets needlessly . Do servers, for example, crea te a permanent presence? In the OECD's view, a server -fixed, automated equip ment that can perform important and es sential business functions -may be suf ficient to create a PE at the equipment location without the presence of human beings. Conflicting rulings by the authority of advance rulings have only added to uncertainty in this area of taxation. The government should clear the air to mitigate investor concerns.

In this case, FPIs have approached the Dispute Resolution Mechanism (DRP). The need is to ensure its robust function ing -the DRP has a pool of dedicated tax officers. India has slipped in the World Bank's latest ease of doing business index in terms of paying taxes, and mounting disputes could be a major reason. The country's tax regime must be reformed to minimise disputes. Our tax officers should be better trained to deal with complex transactions as India globalises. Predict ability of tax conduct is on par with simplicity of the law.


·        fick·le

Changing frequently, especially as regards one's loyalties, interests, or affection.


·        ret·ro·spec·tive

Looking back on or dealing with past events or situations.


·        re·lent·less

Oppressively constant; incessant.


·        may·hem

Violent or damaging disorder; chaos.



The Guardian

view on the Turkish elections: a victory with a price

here is an old Turkish proverb which says that a defeated wrestler always wants another match. It could have been coined to describe the increasingly dire situation of Turkey in recent years under Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. He is undoubtedly an effective and shrewd politician, in that he initially offered a programme and policies that appealed to both the traditional and the more modern sectors of society, to religious people and to the more secular classes, and to both ethnic Turks and to minorities, especially the Kurds.

His Justice and Development party, or AKP, has as a result been in charge for 13 years and he himself at the helm for a decade. But he was never an instinctive democrat, respectful of constitutional principles, or resigned to the alternation in power essential in a true democracy, and his attitude to any setback has always been to get round the obstacle by some other means. In general elections in June this year he hoped to win a majority large enough to change the constitution to turn the ceremonial presidential post he now occupies into an executive position. Instead, voters stripped away the simple majority the AKP had until then always enjoyed, in effect rejecting his plan to carry on as the most powerful man in the nation after swapping the premiership for the presidency.

President Erdoğan does not like the word no and so took his weary country back to the polls on Sunday, and he has got back his majority. Votes are votes, and politics is not a pure business in any country, but the problem is nevertheless how he achieved this victory. The immediate answer is that he undermined the coalition-building that would have given the country a stable government after the June election, contriving to have it fail so that he could get this second chance. This was cavalier, but characteristic.

In retrospect his years in power have seen the reduction, one by one, of all independent centres of power. He cut the Turkish military down to size, arguably a necessary move, but the methods were dubious. He fell out with his silent partner, the Gülen movement, and curtailed its influence in the media and education. He has increasingly politicised the judiciary and the law enforcement agencies, with Washington's annual human rights report on Turkey this summer only one of many recent condemnatory accounts.

Pressure on the media has become intense, both on individual writers and by the manipulation of the press through relations with the big firms that own it or, in some cases, that have bought into it at government prompting. It got much worse in the run-up to this election, according to a report from the International Press Institute.

Nor has President Erdoğan's own party escaped this consolidation of power. Apart from the oblique criticisms of former president Abdullah Gul, the divisions and debates that occur in a healthy democratic organisation have usually been absent. One former member of the AKP wrote recently that a process of purging it of moderates and replacing them with conservative religious figures began years ago. "Those who asked questions, offered constructive criticism or were generally disposed to moderation" were thrown out, he claimed.

The worst development of recent months has been the return to war with the PKK, the Kurdish armed movement. The peace process had been faltering and rivalry between the PKK and the Kurdish Peoples' Democratic party, or HDP, probably played a part in the return to war between government troops and PKK fighters. But if Mr Erdoğan did not engineer the breakdown, he has certainly capitalised on it, repeatedly painting a picture of a country beset by terrorists of various stripes and accusing the HDP of being a PKK proxy. Several terrible bomb attacks, as well as a Turkish air campaign in Syria, have reinforced the message that violence is all around and that Turkey needs a strong hand in order to get through difficult times.

President Erdoğan has got his majority back, but Turkey has been damaged in the process. Its independent institutions have been undermined, its constitutional rules have been disregarded, the relations between ethnic Turks and Kurds have deteriorated, and it is back in a war it thought was over. It is typical of him that he has not for one moment since he assumed office as president acted as the ceremonial figure, standing above politics, the constitution lays down he should be. He will continue to seek the changes he wants, and if he does not get them, he will act as if they have already happened. Sadly, this election is unlikely to mark a passage into calm waters for Turkey.


·        dire

(of a situation or event) extremely serious or urgent.


·        at the helm. In charge, in command, as in With Charles at the helm, the company is bound to prosper.

·        in·stinc·tive

Relating to or prompted by instinct; apparently unconscious or automatic.


·        cav·a·lier

A supporter of King Charles I in the English Civil War.


·        du·bi·ous

Hesitating or doubting.


·        o·blique

Neither parallel nor at a right angle to a specified or implied line; slanting.


·        dis·pose

Get rid of by throwing away or giving or selling to someone else.


·        be·set

(of a problem or difficulty) trouble or threaten persistently.


The Newyork Times

Guantánamo Releases Ramp Up

The release on Friday of Shaker Aamer, a British resident who was detained for more than 13 years in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, is the latest sign that the Obama administration is starting to take swifter steps to shut down the prison.

Mr. Aamer's detention had become a growing source of tension between the United States and Britain, where officials have long pressed for his release. A group of British lawmakers was baffled when a round of meetings with Obama administration officials and senators last spring did not yield a breakthrough in the case. Mr. Aamer has been cleared for release since 2007.

His departure came a day after the American military repatriated another Guantánamo inmate, Ahmed Ould Abdel Aziz, to Mauritania. The two men are among a handful of detainees who have been freed in recent weeks, following a months-long period during which the Pentagon withheld final authorization for releases.

While this is welcome news, there is no excuse for how slowly the Defense Department has moved to free dozens of men a panel of national security officials cleared for release years ago. As of Friday afternoon, there were 52 inmates at Guantánamo cleared for release. There were also 60 who are either facing charges in military tribunals, or have been deemed too dangerous to free.

The White House said in July that it would soon present to Congress a detailed plan outlining how it intends to make good on President Obama's 2008 campaign promise to shut down the prison. Senator John McCain, the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, has indicated that he is willing to work collaboratively with the White House. Disappointingly, the administration has not yet to put forward its plan.

There is no reason to believe Republicans on Capitol Hill who have stubbornly and unreasonably stood in the way of closing Guantánamo will relent any time soon. But Mr. Obama could push the issue by reiterating publicly and forcefully that prolonging this travesty has done more harm than good to the nation's security.


·        baf·fle

Totally bewilder or perplex.


·        break·through

A sudden, dramatic, and important discovery or development.


·        re·pa·tri·ate

Send (someone) back to their own country.


·        re·it·er·ate

Say something again or a number of times, typically for emphasis or clarity.


·        trav·es·ty

A false, absurd, or distorted representation of something.



The Moscow Times

Russia Mourns Victims of Plane Crash in Egypt

A Russian airplane carrying more than 200 people crashed in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula on Saturday, killing all of those on board.

Operated by the Russian airline Kogalymavia, the plane was flying from the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh to St. Petersburg, carrying 217 passengers and seven crew members. All the passengers and crew were Russian, the TASS news agency cited the management of St. Petersburg's Pulkovo Airport as saying.

Egyptian officials said the plane was completely destroyed after it crashed in a mountainous area, Reuters reported. The bodies of at least 100 people were retrieved from the site within hours of the crash, the news agency cited an Egyptian security officer on the scene as saying.

The Russian Embassy in Egypt later confirmed on Twitter that all passengers on board the plane had died.

Several hours after the news of the plane crash broke, tweets and online statements from people claiming to be representatives of the Islamic State terrorist organization, which has been active in the Sinai region, said that its militants had shot down the plane in retaliation for Russian air strikes targeting rebels in Syria.

Egyptian security sources had said earlier there was no sign that the plane had been shot down, Reuters reported, and experts on Islamic State polled by both Russian and international news agencies said militants did not have equipment capable of shooting down a plane flying at a height of 3,000-4,000 meters.

Russian Transport Minister Maxim Sokolov said there was no evidence to support the claims that Islamic State had downed the plane. He said there would be an inspection of Kogalymavia, a small carrier also known as Metrojet, TASS reported.

Flight KGL9268 descended at a rate of about 6,000 feet a minute just before its signal was lost, aviation tracking website Flight Radar 24 wrote on Twitter. It disappeared from the radars about 20 minutes after takeoff, news reports said.

The plane's pilot had asked for permission to make an emergency landing at Egypt's El Arish International Airport because of "technical problems," some media reports said.

"The minister of civil aviation said that it was premature to decide the reasons of the crash and that the whole issue is now under investigation to clarify its reasons," the Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs wrote in an online statement.

Twenty-four of those killed were children, Interfax reported. Some reports said one Belarussian national and two or three Ukrainian nationals were among the dead, while others said that all the passengers were Russian. Russia's Association of Tour Operators released a full list of passenger names on its website.

Russian President Vladimir Putin expressed his condolences to the families of those killed and ordered Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev to set up a state commission to investigate the causes of the crash, the Kremlin said. Medvedev wrote on Twitter that the tragedy would be thoroughly investigated and that the families of the deceased would receive aid.

Russia's Emergency Situations Ministry said it had sent several aircraft carrying investigators to the scene, including Emergencies Minister Vladimir Puchkov, Transport Minister Sokolov and the head of Russia's aviation authority, Alexander Neradko, Interfax reported.

A spokesman for Egypt's prime minister was cited by the Wall Street Journal as saying that one of the black boxes had been recovered from the crash site.

Nov. 1 was declared a day of mourning in Russia for those killed in the crash, and a hotline was set up Saturday for their friends and relatives. Relatives who gathered at Pulkovo Airport where the plane had been due to land were taken to a nearby hotel and provided with psychological counseling, the Emergencies Ministry said in an online statement.

The process of identifying the bodies will take place in St. Petersburg, Interfax cited regional Emergencies Ministry officials as saying.

Egypt has for years been one of the most popular holiday destinations for Russian tourists.

German airline Lufthansa and Air France-KLM said following the Islamic State's claim to have shot down the plane that they would not fly over the Sinai Peninsula.


·        pre·ma·ture

Occurring or done before the usual or proper time; too early.



The Dawn

Violence against journalists

AS the UN marks the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists today, it is worth asking why this particular turn of phrase is being used.

According to UN figures, over the past decade, 700 journalists have been killed the world over during the course of discharging their duties. This averages out to one death a week. In 2013, the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution proclaiming Nov 2 as IDEI — the date commemorates the murder of two French journalists in Mali that year.

Obviously, violence against those who work in the media is far more endemic when the figures beyond the number of deaths are tallied. And as the UN points out, the issue is not just about violence but also the culture of impunity within which the violence is unleashed. "In nine out of 10 cases," the UN notes, "the killers go unpunished. Impunity leads to more killings and is often a symptom of worsening conflict and the breakdown of law and justice systems."


In Pakistan, journalists operate in an environment that is far from safe or enabling. Yet, a curious sort of paradox is in operation.

On the one hand, the growth of the electronic and other media, and their general raucousness, mean that there is considerable freedom to report, including on topics that were until recently taboo; the country does not figure on the list of 10 countries where the Committee to Protect Journalists has shown the most censorship takes place.

On the other hand, though, violence against journalists is a serious issue, as is the culture of impunity. Since 1994, the CPJ counts 56 journalists killed in Pakistan where the motive was confirmed as related to the work they were doing.

Beyond this ambit, the actual numbers of media workers' deaths rises exponentially. The suspected perpetrators include non-state actors as well as state-sponsored elements, as believed to be in the case of Saleem Shahzad.

Further, journalists — especially in hotspots such as Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa — are regularly threatened and attacked. Many are caught in the cross hairs of both the militants and the security forces.

The way out — on paper at least — is fairly simple. The state needs to investigate and prosecute all cases where journalists are targeted.

The reality, unfortunately, is that the state has failed to demonstrate any resolve.

The killers of Daniel Pearl were tracked down as a result of sustained international pressure, while the murderers of Wali Babar too were tried, found guilty and sentenced after much prodding.

But these are the only two cases where any meaningful progress has been made. In doing so, the state sends out the signal that it will stand and watch as journalists' voices are silenced. Until this changes, there can be little for Pakistan to be proud of in terms of media freedoms.


·        im·pu·ni·ty

Exemption from punishment or freedom from the injurious consequences of an action.


·        en·dem·ic

(of a disease or condition) regularly found among particular people or in a certain area.


·        raucousness

(raucously) with a raucous sound; "his voice rang raucously"


·        exponentially

In an exponential manner; "inflation is growing exponentially"


·        perpetrators

(perpetrate) perform an act, usually with a negative connotation; "perpetrate a crime"; "pull a bank robbery"