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Fear of attacks looms large on scribes

Fear of attacks looms large on scribes
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It is not just economy that is facing recession. Even journalism has become a victim of recession not because of slowdown of economy but because of various other reasons.

It is not just economy that is facing recession. Even journalism has become a victim of recession not because of slowdown of economy but because of various other reasons.

Till about a decade ago, journalists outside the war zones were considered to be safe and powerful who could influence the society and perform their task as watchdogs of society. They normally did not have to worry much about their safety. But now the situation is entirely different.

Today, journalists are facing a whole new set of occupational hazards. There is relentless harassment from people in power and their minions, thanks to growing intolerance among the rulers.

Cases are booked against them and in some cases, they are even assassinated. According to studies, even the US media which reportedly gets robust protection in the world of press freedom is now facing troubled times.

The politicians across the globe who consider themselves to be above all sins demonise the media as "nasty" and "terrible." They have become intolerant and are not willing to read anything that even remotely suggests that the government has erred.

The governments are turning authoritarian and resorting to sort of censorship not just on print media but also on internet. This increases pressures on reporters.

According to human rights organisations, 326 journalists were put behind bars in 2017 alone. The reports indicate that over 78 journalists were killed while doing their job and half of those behind bars were held in Egypt, China and Turkey.

India too is no exception particularly in various States where of late the reporters are being put behind bars or are being physically attacked alleging that they are giving false news or news which are defamatory in nature.

This phenomenon is more in districts. In bigger cities and towns, there have been many instances where some of them were killed by hired assassins.

The fear of attacks or detention or arm-twisting of media houses now looms large on the communicators. This adversely affects the space for logical discussions and communication is getting restricted to "he said, he added."

Thomas Hughes, Executive Director of ARTICLE 19, a British human rights organisation said, "More than ever we need informed citizens, strong institutions, and the rule of law."

The human rights group concludes that hostility towards the media is on the increase. Journalists are vilified for doing their jobs. Data from the Committee to Protect Journalists, an NGO, shows that 2018 was no better for journalists.

In fact, the number of murdered – as opposed to killed in war, on dangerous assignments, or in other incidents – is on the rise. In the past decade, over 300 journalists were killed in more than 40 countries, according to an analysis of the CPJ data. Apart from countries at war, India, Mexico, Brazil, Pakistan and Russia have the most dismal records.

Being under constant threat has resulted in journalism being taken out of list of challenging profession for most aspiring reporters. They are always under constant threat and are being converted into porters from reporters.

Recently, Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi had gone missing and is believed to have been assassinated following orders from Saudi leadership. Khashoggi hit the headlines since he was affiliated to Washington post. But there are many others who don't even figure in the local newspapers.

Till recently, the United States and India were considered to be safe for journalists. They commanded respect and their works were valued. But the malaise that took roots during emergency, is now taking a dangerous turn and India is becoming increasingly unsafe for journalists.

In a recent World Press Freedom Index report by Reporters Without Borders, India has been ranked amongst the most dangerous places for journalists.

The country ranked at 138th place on its press freedom index, way behind neighbouring countries like Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, Nepal and Bhutan.

According to Anurradha Prasad, Chairperson and MD of BAG Network, one is seeing that journalists are the easiest

targets of mobs and hooliganism and women are more vulnerable.

Like two sides of a coin, there are two aspects. While the governments in power are becoming intolerant and want to impose all kinds of restrictions and give lessons on what is journalism and reporting, due to various reasons the journalists too are not above bias.

Moreover, political or other organisations should also not promote hate against media and should respect freedom of expression.

Secondly, there was a time when the journalists and journalist unions used to come on one platform in case of any threat to the media. But now successive governments have divided them.

This has come as an added advantage for the rulers to put more and more restrictions on media. A stage has come where the political executive even tells media where a rejoinder must be published which even the Press Council of India has not said anywhere in its guidelines.

According to journalistic practices and legal procedures, if any newspapers publishes any report for which they get a rejoinder, it should be carried prominently. If they fail to do so, they can be dragged to court of law.

But no one can insist where it should be published. There are enough laws which can protect the interest of the government and its departments but still the rulers in the country are coming out with their own rules and regulations.

The fear among media now is so great that even this aspect no one is willing to raise before the powers that be. Let's hope the wheel takes full turn and the lost glory of journalism is restored.

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