As the year 2019 culminates Bharat (officially known as India) welcomes the new year with an improved journo-murder index with only one casualty. The world witnessed murder of around 49 scribes on the line of their duties last year, where the world's largest democracy's share has gone down considerably from six to one. Moreover, its neighbours (except Pakistan and Afghanistan) namely Nepal, Myanmar, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Maldives, Tibet (under China), and Bhutan evaded incident of scribe's murder during the year.

According to International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), Mexico tops the list with 10 incidents of journalist's killings, followed by Afghanistan ( 5), Syria (5), Pakistan (4), Somalia (3), Yemen (2), Philippines (2), Brazil (2), Haiti (2), Honduras ( 2), Iraq (1), Haiti (1), Nigeria (1), Northern Ireland (1), the Philippines (1) etc. The Brussels-based media rights body recorded that 95 scribes were killed for their works in 2018 and the last year reported the lowest casualties since 2000.

Bharat's conflict-ridden neighbour Pakistan reported the murders of Aman Ullah Gharro, Ali Sher Rajper, Mirza Waseem Baig and Zafar Abbas, where Afghanistan lost Javid Noori, Shafiq Arya, Rahimullah Rahmani, Sultan Mohammad Kairkhah and Nader Shah Shebzadeh to besieged assailants. Bangladesh witnessed the suspected murder of online journalist Ihsan Ibn Reza Fagun in 2019.

Bharat as a whole witnessed the incidents of nine journo-killings in 2019, but only one incident emerged as a case of targeted murder. Andhra Pradesh based journalist K Satyanarayana (45) faced the fate because of his performances as a working journalist. The committed reporter of Telugu newspaper Andhra Jyothy was hacked to death by miscreants at Annavaram village of East Godavari district on the night of 15 October. Local scribes informed that Satyanarayana was targeted in an earlier occasion too.

Others who were killed this year include Jobanpreet Singh (Punjab's online journalist was killed in police firings on 19 December), Vijay Gupta (Kanpur-based scribe shot dead by close relatives on 29 October), Radheyshyam Sharma (Kushinagar-based journalist murdered by his neighbours on 10 October), Ashish Dhiman (Saharanpur-based photojournalist shot dead along with his brother by neighbours on 18 August), Chakresh Jain (Shahgarh-based freelance journalist died of serious burn injuries on 19 June), Anand Narayan (news channel contributor of Mumbai murdered by miscreants on 4 June), Nityanand Pandey (magazine editor in Thane killed by an employee on 17 March).

Kerala-based journalist K Muhammed Basheer lost his life on 3 August as a government officer driven vehicle mowed down him. Bihar's scribe Pradeep Mandal was targeted by miscreants on 28 July, but he survived luckily. He contributed a number of news items against the local liquor mafia for Dainik Jagaran and invited enmities from the goons. Guwahati-based scribe named Naresh Mitra died on 9 December after sustaining head injuries in a mysterious accident inside the city.

The populous country lost six journalists (Navin Nischal, Vijay Singh, Sandeep Sharma, Syed Shujaat Bukhari, Achyuta N Sahu and Chandan Tiwari) to assailants in 2018, whereas the trouble-torn northeastern region of the country has once again evaded murder of any journalist in two consecutive years. Often described as a disturbed zone because of relentless violence engineered by armed militants, the region (except Tripura) has avoided any incident of journalist's murder for many years.

Tripura reported the murder of five media persons in 2013 and 2017, whereas Assam and Manipur witnessed the last killing of media persons (Dwijamani Nanao Singh from Imphal and Raihanul Nayum from Dhubri) in 2012. Till the recent time, the region was a breeding ground for insurgents fighting against New Delhi with demands for self-rule to sovereignty. Both the States were once severely affected by the militancy, where over 30 separatist armed outfits went on with disruptive activities including extortion, kidnapping, and killings.

The year 2017 was recognized as a deadliest year for working journalists in Bharat, as 12 scribes (Hari Prakash, Brajesh Kumar Singh, Shyam Sharma, Kamlesh Jain, Surender Singh Rana, Gauri Lankesh, Shantanu Bhowmik, KJ Singh, Rajesh Mishra, Sudip Datta Bhaumik, Naveen Gupta and Rajesh Sheoran) were either murdered or killed in suspicious situations. Among the casualties, Tripura reported two incidents of journo-murder (Shantanu and Sudip Datta) that year.

In 2016, Bharat witnessed the beleaguered killings of six scribes, where as the previous year the country lost five journalists to assailants. A satisfactory statistics on journo-murder index was observed in 2014, when the country reported only two incidents of journo-murders. But the year 2013 emerged a dangerous year for scribes with 11 casualties including three media employees (Sujit Bhattacharya, Ranjit Chowdhury and Balaram Ghosh) from Tripura.

Various national and international media rights bodies like Paris-based Reporters Sans Frontiers (RSF), New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), IFJ etc have come out with separate reports on journo-murders in 2019 and continue raising voices for due probes and punishments to the culprits. Defining journalists as individuals who cover news or comment on public affairs in print, radio, television, online outlets etc, those organizations reveal that over 350 media persons are still inside jails, where China, Turkey, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Vietnam can claim the lion's share.

The author is a northeast India based media activist