Shooting the messenger may be an unhealthy practice, and the health of journalists in India have become a cause for concern.
Some 228 journalists have found themselves in pretty uncomfortable positions, and 13 among them were killed in the country that prides itself on being the home of the Mahatma of non-violence and the world’s most populous democracy.
The first India Press Freedom Report 2020, prepared by Rights and Risks Analysis Group ( RRAG ), states that journalists of different hues and shades find themselves at the receiving end from State as well as ‘non-state’ actors.
Out of the total 228 journalists, 114 journalists were attacked by the non-State actors, says the report. Non state actors could be unruly mobs,unidentified miscreants, members, supporters and ‘bhakts’ of political parties, or online social media users.
A total of 13 journalists were killed, 37 journalists were arrested or detained, 64 journalists/media institutions had FIRs registered against them, 13 journalists and one newspaper were issued show-cause notices/ summons by different authorities and 101 journalists were subjected to physical assault/online threats or their houses and family members being attacked.
A number of journalists faced multiple FIRs (poplice reports) within certain states tate as well as in different States. To name a few: Arnab Goswami, Vinod Dua, Aakar Patel, Jagat Bains, Om Sharma, Ashwani Saini, and Amish Devgan.
To avoid being arrested , several journalists had to seek relief from the courts including the Supreme Court.
The Press Freedom report lists some of the reasons for which journalists across the country were booked.
They included sting operations conducted to expose corruption by officials, politicians and hospitals; for reporting communal violence or expressing opinions about communal violence; comments against CAA; taking pictures and videos of tribals wearing masks made of palm leaves because of the lack of masks; exposing denial of food ration to migrant workers; reporting on hunger and starvation during COVID-19; reporting about politicians and political parties; using pictures of a particular place along with news stories; spreading what the authorities termed as “fake news”; uploading alleged anti-national posts on social media; allegedly indulging in unlawful activities; allegedly hurting religious sentiments; alleged defamation; reporting on the mismanagement and negligence at quarantine centres; reporting regarding problems faced by Home Guards during Covid-19; reporting about the condition of hospitals during COVID-19; or for simply expressing opinions on certain matters.
The various ways in which charges can be pinned on journalists in India are noted above.
In a way, the Press Freedom report says nothing really new. The devil is however, in the details of the report. There’s no need to read between the lines. Journalism and its relevance are taking a big hit these days.
[Written by the Newsnet desk with inputs from Nishant Mishra]