Kolkata: Gauri Lankesh, a firebrand editor, who began her journalistic career with Kolkata’s Ananda Bazar Patrika, used to run her own publication Lankesh Patrike. She was a fierce critic of right-wing Hindu fanatism and communalism. Gauri, was only 55, when assassinated.
India, dangerous for journalists
Her killing, has been vehemently condemned by activists and journalist across India. But, it highlights one thing – India is increasingly becoming a dangerous country for journalists critical of the government or nationalist sentiment. According to the World Press Freedom Index, brought out in 2016, by Reporters without Borders, India ranks as low as 133 out of 180 countries sampled. The report states, “The situation is worsening in India, which is now ranked 133rd of the 180 countries, although its media are dynamic and much more capable of playing the role of a democracy’s watchdog than the media of most other countries in the last third of the index.”
According to this report, almost every month a journalist is attacked in India. And the journalists of Uttar Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir are the most vulnerable.
Another report published by the New York –based Committee for Protection of Journalists (CPJ), Indian exposing corruption often pay with their lives. As per CPJ data, 28 Indian journalists have been murdered since 1992. Interestingly, they are yet to get justice. It states, “India’s culture of impunity is leaving the country’s press vulnerable to threats and attacks”.
Explaining the rise in the number of journalists being murdered, S.N. Sinha, president of Indian Journalists Union, said, “Journalists were killed earlier too. However, we are disturbed by the present trend. Now, journalists who are critical of the present government being bumped off. It’s an open secret, that Gauri Lankesh was an open critic of the right-wing ideology. She had even been threatened with dire consequences.”
Gauri, had even been convicted for a defamation case filed by BJP MP Pralad Joshi, for having published articles against the saffron brigade in her tabloid.
Investigative journalists at higher risk
Many feel that the stakes are higher for Indian investigative journalists. Elaborating on the same was, Raja Chowdhury, a Gujarat-based investigative journalist. He said, “That’s (risk) part and parcel of being an investigative journalist. There were threats earlier too. But now, they are result oriented threats.” Chowdhury, who runs an investigative online portal Khooobsurat, further added, “These days we are given a diktat, which if not followed, we have to be prepared to face consequence, which can be in any form.”
Explaining this sudden rise, Sinha, said, “People are not open to criticism. They can’t accept the fact that media, being the watchdog of Indian democracy and has the right to criticize the present government. Media, has always criticised other government, for their failure. It’s nothing new. However, today, we can’t deny the fact, that we as journalists in India are at a risk. Till date, we don’t a law to protect us. We have been trying to get one into place, but it’s just not happening.”
While, Chowdhury claimed, “If you give absolute power to a single party in a democracy, with a weak opposition, then this is bound to happen.”