Chennai: Nine years ago, barely aged 20, Isravel Moses timidly stepped into the office of Thamizhan TV as an area reporter for some villages in Kanchipuram district, including his own village Nallur and Kundrathur, a Chennai suburb. Sahaya Raj, his chief reporter, recalls him as a bright and hardworking person. On the night of November 8, Moses was hacked to death by alleged drug dealers, as a fallout of his reportage on the distribution and sale of ganja and the illegal encroachment of poramboke lands.
“He was definitely one of our brightest reporters,” says Sahaya Raj. “Moses was very keen on stories about local issues, the ‘real issues’ that people of his village and other villages face. We have an internal award for reporters and the year before, he had won it.”
Sahaya Raj says Moses was very enterprising as a reporter. “He was consistent. Over the past year, he had done many stories on the distribution and sale of ganja and encroachment of lands. Even last month, Moses did another follow up of his story on ganja and how the police were not taking action on it.”
Still shaken, Gnanaraj Yesudasan, father of Moses and a reporter himself, says his son was facing threats from ‘anti-social elements’ in the locality for his exposes. “Lots of people used to come looking for him, seeking his help in solving an issue. And more often than not, Moses will try and get the issues solved.”
On that fateful night, Yesudasan recalls that one Manoj had called for his son at around 10:30 pm on the pretext of asking for an address. “He went along with him and soon I heard him scream. When I stepped out, I saw he had been hacked. We rushed him to a hospital, but he was declared dead.” The FIR copy of the incident says the attack was a consequence of “enmity”.
Yesudasan says his son has been facing threats from one Navamani, who he calls a ‘local rowdy’. “A few months ago, I visited his family and warned them about these threats.”
Condemning the incident, Bharathi Thamizhan, joint secretary of the Chennai Press Club, says the murder exposes the vulnerability of journalists in the state. “The chief minister, who is also in charge of the home portfolio, should intervene and sort the issue out,” Thamizhan said.
Meanwhile, the Kanchipuram district police have arrested four persons in connection with the murder. “We have arrested all the four accused within hours of the incident – Navamani, Vignesh, Venkatesan and Manoj. The motive is personal vengeance and a land dispute. We are collecting more evidence,” Kanchipuram district superintendent of police Shanmuga Priya said.
Sahaya Raj, also the state president of the Working Journalists’ Union, says the union and other press bodies in the state have sought an immediate appointment with chief minister E.K. Palaniswamy to put forth three demands, including Rs 25 lakh solatium for Moses’s family and legislating an Act to protect the journalists in the state.
“Considering his family’s situation, we are also demanding that the government should give a government job to a family member. Also, journalists across the state continue to face threats and intimidation for the work they are doing. The government should immediately do something about it,” Raj said.
Yesudasan has just one demand. “No other journalist in the state should suffer the fate of my son. Will the chief minister take action to ensure that?”