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

Posted by Kritti Bhalla in Human Rights, Kashmir, Media
June 18, 2018

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.