Honesty is Definitely not the Best Policy: The Death of Journalists

Posted on February 23, 2012 in Society

By Salma Sultana Ahmed:

India is the land where good triumphs over the evil, or truth over false. But gone are the wisdoms of ancient ages, and along with it their value. Welcome to the modern era, where truth comes with a price tag which is your life if you want to unearth it. This has been proved by another incident of murder of a journalist. Last Saturday, a freelancer for dailies Navbharat and Hitavada, along with his wife and two children, was found murdered in their house in Madhya Pradesh’s Umaria district. The murder of Chandrika Rai and his entire family has raised the question of journalist safety, as fingers are being pointed at the involvement of an illegal coal-mining mafia active in the region. He had written a series of articles alleging the involvement of a local leader in illegal mining.

This is not the first time that a scribe had to lose his life for the telling the truth. At least 887 journalists have lost their lives in the line of duty since 1992, and at least 554 of these murders are still unsolved, according to reports from the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ). In a majority of these killings, investigations are either still on, or the culprits are nowhere near being brought to book. They roam scot-free, secure in the knowledge that they will remain so. In 2010, Sushil Pathank of Dainik Bhaskar was shot dead in Bilaspur, Chhatisgarh on December 20th. In the same year, 27 other journalists were attacked, often by clearly identifiable assailants belonging to some political party or social group, or even police or security forces.

In 2011, Umesh Rajput of Nai Duniya, was also shot dead on January 23 near his residence at Chhura village, in Chhattisgarh. A note, stating “Khabar chaapna band nahi karoge toh mare jaoge” (If you don’t stop publishing news, you will be killed), was found near the crime scene.

Barely a few months later, on June 11, Mid-Day journalist, Jyotirmaya Dey, was shot dead in broad daylight. After a public outcry by journalists in Mumbai and other cities, police arrested eight persons for the murder. But the Mumbai police are yet to file a chargesheet in the case and are still chary of establishing a motive for the killing.

The police investigation, or the lack of it, is a singular thread that runs through all instances of such attacks and killings. In Assam, for instance, 27 journalists have been killed in the last 23 years — a majority during the years of strife and political turmoil. But, even though the assailants were identified in a majority of the cases, there hasn’t been any conviction in even one case.

The Press Council of India (PCI) has appointed a six-member sub-committee to examine the issue of “safety of journalists in discharging their duties” with K. Amarnath, a member of the PCI and secretary of Indian Journalists Unions (IJU), from Andhra Pradesh as its convenor but nothing much have changed. The Indian media is being attacked on all fronts for its declining standards, but one fails to recognise the gravest threat that these scribes face to unearth the truth. It is high time that some kind of security is provided to them in real terms. If the torchbearers and whistleblowers are silenced forever then the day won’t be far away when the world will be full of dumb and deaf swinging to the actions of few pied pipers.