Stockholm: Six Indian journalists, including Delhi journalist Soumya Viswanathan, among the 87 worldwide who perished in their line of duty during the past 12 months, were among those honoured at the Stockholm Journalists' Memorial 2008.
The memorial, instituted by the Professional Foreign Correspondents Association, PROFOCA, of Sweden 2002, was commemorated for the seventh consecutive year at the the Royal Cathedral of Stockholm, in an ecumenical service, Tuesday.
The six Indian journalists that featured in the memorial that has grown to become a global event of increasing repute were: Mohamad Muslimuddin, a correspondent for the daily Asamiya Pratidin, Ashok Sodhi, a photographer for Jammu's English-language Daily Excelsior, Ved Prakash Chouhan, a senior journalist, Komal Yadav, a photographer of Amar Ujala, a Hindi daily, Javed Ahmed Mir of a local Kashmir paper and Soumya Vishwanathan, a TV journalist who was shot dead in the capital by unidentified persons earlier this year when she was returning home late at night from work.
Soumya was an employee of TV Today Network's English news channel, Headlines Today. Prior to joining Headlines Today, Soumya had also worked with CNN-IBN.
She had stayed back in office on Monday night (September 29, 2008) to monitor coverage of the blasts in Malegaon and Modasa.
She had been killed by un-known assailants in the early hours of Tuesday, September 30. The incident occurred when she was driving from her Jhandewalan office to her Vasant Kunj residence at around 0330 hrs (IST). Soumya last spoke to her father at 3:15 am, saying she'll reach home shortly.
Police say she was shot dead while on her way home. Her car was found rammed into the divider on Nelson Mandela road. Her body was still in the driver's seat and there was a bullet in her head.
The police rushed her to the All India Institute of Medical Sciences but doctors declared her dead on arrival. Police have registered a case of murder under Section 302 of the Indian Penal Code, but the motive for the killing has not yet been established.
Meanwhile, in Stockholm, the ambassadors and senior diplomatic representatives of 34 countries - with the exception of India - to which the slain journalists belonged, along with senior representatives of the Swedish government, participated in the memorial.
Jose Luis Belmar, the founder of PROFOCA, lamented to IANS, saying that ,"We are extremely saddened that India, the largest democracy in the world, as well as, boasting by far the most extensive free press globally does not see fit to participate in this momentous event in which neither politics nor any material or individual gain is involved".
Belmar added, "In fact this is the second consecutive year that the Indian embassy in Stockholm has seen fit to outright ignore our invitation that was sent in very good time. I, indeed, cannot imagine why they would scorn our efforts to honour the seekers, and victims, of truth in this world of violence".
The highlight of the ceremony, interspersed with the cathedral choir rendering choice classical music appropriate to the event and the prayers for universal peace and tolerance, was the ambassador or representative of respective country lighting a candle in honour of their fallen countrymen.
He or she is escorted, to the table holding the candles, by a member of PROFOCA, as the dean of the cathedral calls out the names.
India, being unrepresented officially, was asked to be represented by IANS, just as last year, to do the honours for fallen colleagues.
The president of PROFOCA, Francesco Saverio Alonzo, ended his expression of thanks with sound optimism: "We had prayed God to be merciful to our brave colleagues laying their lives on the line in their quest for truth and justice; it appears He is listening to us.
"Last year we mourned 154. This year it is, mercifully, down to 87. But, it is 87 far too many".