Twenty five journalists and eight media workers are killed in 2017. With flourishing growth of India as the largest democracy in world, one of the greatest achievements is its vibrant media. Right from the era of independence, where power of ink was recognised more than bullet, media role was seen as stature to bind people together for a common agenda. Outreach of media in couple of decades in India is indisputable. From the agenda of corruption to the lax in law, media have certainly able to make people and government rethink before reaching conclusion. But the face of media in recent time is not encouraging anymore. There are number of incidents which have certainly raised the question on the ethics of media coverage. At the same time those who still live with utmost morals and truthfulness are killed.
Those who are killed, question the political scenario of this country. They are the victims of a particular lobby. Their only fault is that they are fearless and bold. Political parties need to realise that the journalists can be killed or eliminated but their voices remain loud. I was shocked to read about the brutal murder of a young television journalist Santanu Bhowmik in Tripura. Be it RSS, BJP, CPM or any other party, they spread hatred, provocation and praise their cadre for violence, which ultimately ends in killings. What was Santanu’s fault? He was doing his duty; he was covering political unrest in North East. This is the true face of the Indigenous People’s Front of Tripura (IPFT). All along, they have indulged in hooliganism, dacoities, murders and kidnappings. The media was totally silent on these incidences for all this while. Why?
Anyways, no arrests have yet been made in connection with the reporter’s death, but four people were detained on separate charges related to the political violence. Bhowmik’s death brings the number of reporters killed in India since the early 1990s to 29, according to figures from the Committee to Protect Journalists. It comes just a fortnight after the murder of Gauri Lankesh, a newspaper editor and outspoken critic of the ruling Hindu nationalist party, whose death sparked an outpouring of anger.
In 2015, Reporters Without Borders ranked India the deadliest country in Asia for journalists – although most deaths occur in remote rural areas away from the major urban centres. In April, the press freedom group ranked the country 136th of 180 countries in its world press freedom ratings. We want to keep our journalism as open as we can.
Any type of dissent against any state or national government is a crime now.
The murder of Santanu, who was working for a local television channel, occurred amid continuing clashes between supporters of the IPFT and the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) in the Khowai. Scores have been injured, houses burnt, police vehicles torched and policemen attacked in the second day of tension in Tripura.
Police recovered Santanu in a critical state after he was attacked by a group of scoundrels at Mandwai. Doctors declared him brought dead; he had received injuries on his head. A large number of journalists from all segments of media gathered at the hospital to demand the immediate arrest of the murderers.
Santanu Bhowmik’s life was taken away by mindless violence when he was discharging his professional journalistic duties. It is a reckless, inhuman act to silence the voice of the free press in the country.
There should be an impartial and swift probe into this murder. Meanwhile, State Government should offer adequate compensation to the family of the young journalist whose life was sniffed out in the line of duty. Murders of journalists are not new to this country, they are butchered every year and that is the reason India is among the three most dangerous countries for journalists. A total of 110 journalists were killed in connection with their work or for unclear reasons in 2015, and at least 67 were killed while reporting or because of their work. These 67 deaths bring to 787 the total number of journalists killed in connection with their work since 2005.
India ranks awfully low at 133 among 180 countries in the latest annual World Press Freedom Index. India jumped three spots from the 136th position it had in 2015. Journalists and bloggers are attacked and anathematised by various religious groups that are quick to take offense. At the same time, it is hard for journalists to cover many sensitive issues; they are not allowed to voice their opinion. Whether it’s print media or electronic media we cannot underlay the fact that they have significant power to uproar voice of common man. From Delhi rape case protest to various corruption movements, media were not only able to push government to stand still, but also able to reach common man for sake of awareness. India has more than 70,000 newspapers and over 690 satellite channels (more than 80 are news channels) and is the biggest newspaper market in the world – over 100 million copies sold each day. Therefore, under such a rigorous competition, professionalism is on stake. Media houses are looking for reporters with minimum wages, which indeed ends up deprived of quality news. More than journalism as profession, it has deprived to business minded occupation these days. But those who are independent and commercial aspects are just not their priority, are either killed or suppressed. In our country we don’t have heart to accept the truth.
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