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Last Updated: Thursday, 2 August 2007, 06:51 GMT 07:51 UK
Papers shut in Indian north-east
By Subir Bhaumik
BBC News, Calcutta

Journalists in India's north-eastern state of Manipur refused to bring out their newspapers on Thursday in protest against threats by rebels.

The protest came after the editor of a local newspaper received a grenade shell in his mail recently.

The shell, contained in a parcel, did not explode.

The parcel was mailed by a faction of the separatist Peoples Revolutionary Army of Kangleipak (Prepak). Kangleipak is the ancient name of Manipur.

"Not one copy of any newspaper, English or in local languages, appeared on the stands today," said local journalist Yumnam Rupachandra.

The editor of the English language Sangai Express newspaper, who received the parcel, said it also contained a warning.

"The parcel contained a threat by the rebels warning us of dire consequences if we carried the press statements of a rival faction of the Prepak. How can we function in such an atmosphere?" said Khogendra Khomdram.

'We feel insecure'

Members of the All Manipur Journalist Union and the Manipur Editors Forum staged a sit-in demonstration to protest against the rebel threat.

They said no newspaper would be published in the state until the rebels withdrew their threat to the Sangai Express.

"We have met the Manipur chief Minister Okram Ibobi Singh and demanded adequate security for the media fraternity. Otherwise we feel so insecure," said S Hemant, president of the All Manipur Journalist Union. Journalists in Manipur has been working under severe threats and pressure for the last few years.

Last year, separatist rebels shot and seriously injured the bureau chief of a Manipuri daily, Ratan Luwangcha.

Later in the year, another rebel group kidnapped six editors of local dailies and released them only after extracting a promise that the rebel statements would be published as it is.

Editors stopped publication of newspapers in protest against the abductions and the threats, only to resume printing after the rebels backed off.

Local language papers in Manipur have also been under threat and pressure from a revivalist organisation, Meelal, which wants Manipuri papers to print their dailies in the ancient Manipuri script, Mayek, and not in the Bengali script that has been in use in Manipur for several centuries.

Manipur is home to a dozen rebel groups - some fighting for the state's independence, others fighting for autonomous tribal homelands.

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