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With Increasing Violence Against Journalists, Why Is The Indian Government Still Silent?

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As the memories of the murder of Gauri Lankesh was fading, the recent killing of Shujaat Bukhari has again raised questions about the security of journalists in the Indian Society. In Kashmir alone, 19 journalists have been killed since 1990.

The editor of “Rising Kashmir” was one of the strong voices of Kashmir and reported on the ground level situation. He talked about the truth, rather than the popular sentiment of the citizens. He questioned the growth of India’s Kashmir policy, at the same time accused separatists of instigating violence in the region.

He faced a backlash from both parties of the conflict. On the one hand, he was accused of being a “traitor” by Kashmiri protestors. On the other, he was targeted by Hindu groups for dancing to the tunes of Pakistan. The day he was shot, he tweeted justifying his stand and re-tweeted the UN report on Kashmir. Sujaat Bukhari had witnessed such attacks twice before.

Politics is nothing but a struggle for power. The journalists are the first ones to be targeted with the rise of a political struggle. Journalists are said to raise awareness, to push for better governance, and to raise questions which hinders political motives.  To achieve this power the messengers have to be shut or tamed. According to National Crime Report Bureau, post-2015 at least 142 cases of attacks against journalists have been registered in India.

The violence against journalists is not just an Indian situation, but a universal one. The International Federation of Journalists report states that at least 2,297 journalists have been subjected to violence 1990. This includes the list of 112 journalists killed in 2015 alone. UNESCO report reveals that every five days a journalist is killed. The United Nations has also dedicated November 2, especially, to end impunity for violence against journalists.

The government of India hasn’t been a promoter of free speech and expression either. The banning of New Delhi Television (NDTV) for covering Pathankot attack while other channels did so too, the defamation case against TheWire.in for reporting on Jay Shah case were to gag the freedom of the press. In the most recent examples, An FIR was filed by Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) against the Tribune reporter for covering the Aadhar breach story. The avoid such actions, the media houses have no option but to switch to self-censorship.

With so many attacks on journalists and the rise of threats to journalists, the current government remains silent regarding killings.

KOLKATA, INDIA – JUNE 15: Kolkata journalists protest the murder of Rising Kashmir editor-in-chief, Shujaat Bukhari in front of Academy of Fine Arts, at Rabindra Sadan area on June 15, 2018 in Kolkata, India. (Photo Samir Jana/Hindustan Times via Getty Images)

It’s not about a particular government, the oppression of media has been going on through the ages. The censorship of the press was regulated time and again under the British rule. Indra Gandhi’s period of Emergency and Press Censorship is considered the darkest period from Freedom of speech and expression. Amnesty International‘s report states that 1,40,000 people – journalists, media persons, politicians, activists, had been arrested during the 20 months of emergency.

According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, not a single journalist murder case in India has been solved over in the past decade (till 2017). To control the situation of violence against journalists in India, Press Council of India recommended a five-year imprisonment for attacking a journalist. But nothing came out of it.

India has been constantly slipping down in its freedom of Press ratings. The media, which was once considered one of the best in the world, now ranks at 138 in the Press Freedom Index (2018). Civil war struck countries, like Afghanistan and Palestine, have better ratings.

The Cobrapost sting operation, Operation 136, has brought reputed media person willing to sacrifice the freedom of the press to the forefront. But can we put all the blame on them? In the era of Fake news, Whatsapp and the internet being the first source of information for many people, the media houses are suffering due to their flawed revenue generation models. Media houses rely heavily on advertisement to generate revenue. This leads to the biases amongst them, due to their sponsors’ political affiliations.

To protect the independence of journalists and fight such biases, the media houses of Germany, UK and Austria are funded by the taxpayers. These houses are not owned by the government, but a certain section of the taxes are transferred to them.  Various online portals have started accepting donations to maintain their independence. But at the end of the day, they still have to run the race of click baits to gain advertisements.

The messengers of truth have been degraded to mere pawns of a fascist regime. The ones who go against the popular opinion are either tamed or thrown out of the game. It is one of the underrated and underpaid professions in the world.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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