Friday, October 13, 2006

Jounalism: The most dangerous job in the world

Despite the (over?)crowding of journalists in Indian blogsophere, and despite recent remarkable collective attempts at fighting censorship by the bloggers of our country, I was slightly disappointed that the murder of Anna Politkovskaya, fearless russian journalist found no mention on prominent Indian blogs. The lack of condemnation of that incident by the Indian government is also sad, but the Indian government never reacts as long as the incident could remotely be linked to Pakistan.

From wikipedia:

She authored numerous articles critical of the war in Chechnya, including a number that specifically aimed at exposing abuses committed under the Russian-backed Chechen president Akhmad Kadyrov, as well as his son, deputy prime -minister, then prime-minister, Ramzan Kadyrov. She also wrote a book critical of the Putin presidency, specifically his pursuit of the Second Chechen War. She tirelessly chronicled human rights abuses and policy failures in Chechnya and elsewhere in Russia's North Caucasus. In 2003, she published a book called A Small Corner of Hell: Dispatches From Chechnya, which painted a picture of brutal war in which thousands of innocent citizens have been tortured, abducted or killed at the hands of Chechen or federal authorities.

As reported widely, Ms. Politkovskaya was murdered in front of her apartment in Moscow. She was a fierce, and probably the only critic of russian government, its anti-terrorism policies, the suppression of human rights by the state, and in particular Mr. Putin's man ruling in Chechnya Ramzan Kadyrov. Though there is no proof, the suspicion naturally points towards the russian state, or the chechen warlord.

Without being preachy, let me air my grievances against the top Indian journalists. Of course there are many brave and unnamed ones working in the heartland, but the top ones, the ones who appear daily in our televisions and newspaper, their attitude can be generalised. The only reason Ms. Politkovskaya's murder does not find a mention in the Indian media is the fact that we don't have a leading journalist who scares the state, whose life is in danger. No prominent reporter has dared to stand up and chronicle the attrocities committed by the Indian state in Kashmir, Punjab, North east, Karnataka and Chhattisgarh. The worst part is that they have also not studied and reported the human rights violations committed by the armed millitants and terrorists. Seems like the best ones are the afraid of anything and everything.

Last year, a friend, a journalist from Dantewada, Kamlesh Paikra and his family were driven out of their village at the middle of the night because of the excesses by the state. The IFJ and RSF issued a statement on his behalf, when urged by chhattisgarh-net. Kamlesh was bold (and perhaps stupid) enough to write about the houses that were burnt by the state sponsored anti-naxal militia in Dantewada, Chhattisgarh. He has paid the price, his primary job was snatched, his brother was arrested by the police, he had to leave his village where he had some land, and his pregnant wife and parents had to run from Bijapur in the middle of night, as some well-wisher told him, "encounter hone wala hai, bhaag jao".

(For more on Salwa Judum, read my posts here, here, here and here. More details can be found on cgnet.)

Let me shred a myth. India is not at all a safe country for journalists. According to RSF, India ranked a lowly 106 out of 167 countries in press freedom index in 2005. Though we are better than our neighbours Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, we are lot worse than most european and south american countries. Even places like Poland, Argentina, Nicaragua, Uganda and Venezuela, countries that are not known for being a vibrant democracy (huh?) are ahead of us. Journalism is fast becoming the most dangerous job in the world, if you are honest and upright. The RSF 2005 report says that,

2005 was the deadliest year for journalists since 1995: 63 journalists and 5 media assistants were killed doing their job or for having expressed their opinion; more than 1, 300 physical assaults were recorded and more than 1, 000 media were censored, an increase of 60% compared to 2004.

International federation of Journalists (PDF document) echoes similar views. World Association of Newspapers reports that 78 journalists have been killed so far in 2006.

I am sure that the voice against oppression in Russia will not be silenced by the murder of one individual, however tall in his/her standing. We need people like Ms. Politkovskaya in India, and in every part of the world. I doubt, if the MSM, with their profit motives and multiple interests, can stand up to the state. In that respect, blogs have tremendous untapped power and responsibility. But the bloggers don't have an organization to fall back upon, who will work as a safety net, who will stand up as one voice against some dissenter being 'encountered' by the state for criticising it. The bloggers collective, started to protest against attempted internet censorship by the government in India in June 2006 gave me some hope. But it fast died down, after the ban was revealed to be a a result of mistakes by the ISPs, and most bloggers went their own way.

Ms. Politkovskaya's newspaper Novaya Gazeta does not have an english edition, but a computer translation of the whole website can be read here. Her last unfinished article was published yesterday, the title of which is ironically and prophetically, "We appoint you the terrorists" (addressing the Russian state). Who is going to tell that to the Indian state? And if he/she does so, how long will he/she live after that? As long as cases like Kamlesh continue to happen, the incidents which despite being publicly known are rarely covered by the national media, until then we have absolutely no right to claim ourselves as “the world’s largest democracy”. Its a sham and a shame.


At 11:54 pm, Blogger rama said...

Timely post. Last night, on NDTV, our media leaders were basking in smug self-congratulation about how India is unique in the developing world with its free media! I wish you were there to interject that panel! Best, rama

At 12:18 am, Blogger rama said...

Your blog - is compulsory reading, for anyone who wants to wash away the blindness, delusions and lies fabricated by the mainstream media! Best, rama

At 11:48 am, Blogger Ghetufool said...

at least you mentioned.
thanks for that.

At 2:37 pm, Blogger indscribe said...

Very true...even I was wondering

At 11:32 am, Blogger Anoop Saha said...

Thanks. One thing that our mainstream media lacks is courage. And honesty. Probably because most of the editors/columnists in Indian media are public school and foreign educated, city-bred people, blindly out of touch with the reality.

@ghetufool, indscribe

At 8:44 am, Blogger n said...

"Journalism is fast becoming the most dangerous job in the world, if you are honest and upright"
a little difficult innit, when most of our major papers and news channels have clearcut political affilitions?
There just cannot be any unbiased reporting. agendas pre-exist.

At 3:58 am, Blogger Anoop Saha said...

I agree. It is not just political pressure. The pressure for being commercially viable, the importance of ads, ensures that little against the big businesses also appears in the media.

At 8:20 am, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great article indeed. At least there was someone who came out with the truth.Its alarming to know India's position when the safety of the journalists come in question.
-Pinaki Lahiri


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