The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), and its affiliates and partners in the South Asia Media Solidarity Network (SAMSN), are deeply grieved at the death on June 15 of photo-journalist Tarun Sehrawat, after he contracted multiple infections on assignment in the Abujmarh region of India’s Chhattisgarh state.
Sehrawat was on assignment with the weekly news and current affairs magazine Tehelka and with his colleague, reporter Tusha Mittal, spent a week early in May in the thickly forested area, believed to be among the main operational bases of the Maoist insurgency that has been active in parts of Chhattisgarh and neighbouring states in recent years.
Their account of life in an area that remains for the most part beyond the media gaze was published in the print edition of the magazine dated May 12.
Both Sehrawat and Mittal came down with severe infections and fevers at about the same time. Mittal recovered after two weeks under intensive care but Sehrawat was hit by a combination of jaundice, typhoid and malaria, and had slipped into a coma. He regained consciousness early in June, but suffered a severe cerebral haemorrhage on June 10. He died on June 15 aged 22, the cause of death identified as cerebral malaria.
In mourning the loss of a dedicated young professional, the IFJ urges the news industry to pay heed to the imperatives of care and preparation, when assigning reporters to areas of potential safety risk and health hazard.
“We urge renewed attention to the code evolved by the International News Safety Institute and widely endorsed by news industry managements”.
Titled “Surviving the Story”, the code observes by way of preface, that the “preservation of life and safety is paramount”.
“Staff and freelancers equally should be made aware”, it goes on, “that unwarranted risks in pursuit of a story are unacceptable and strongly discouraged. News organisations are urged to consider safety first, before competitive advantage, for journalists in hostile environments.”
The safety code requires that “assignments to war and other danger zones must be voluntary and only involve experienced news gatherers and those under their direct supervision.”
Employers are responsible under the code, for providing “efficient safety equipment and medical and health safeguards appropriate to the threat to all staff and freelancers assigned to hazardous locations”.
“We appreciate that Tarun Sehrawat and his colleague volunteered for this assignment and that the Tehelka team took all decisions in good faith and the belief that an important public interest was served in getting the story out of a region that few media persons venture into”, said the IFJ Asia-Pacific.
“We urge that in future, all such decisions be made after due deliberation over the risks and the consequences involved”.
For further information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific on +612 9333 0950
The IFJ represents more than 600,000 journalists in 131 countries
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- Tarun Sehrawat, photographer for Tehelka, passed away. R.I.P (kractivist.wordpress.com)
- Remembering Tarun (thehindu.com)