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India and its Fourth Pillar: A cause for worry

By   /  May 8, 2018  /  Comments Off on India and its Fourth Pillar: A cause for worry

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What makes Indian democracy fragile? The answer is in the recent report prepared by global media watchdog Reporters Sans Frontiers (RSF): India ranked 138th out of 180 countries in the world. More worrying about it is the fact that India had slipped five slots lower than where it was in 2016. The Press Council of India has refused to accept the report. But the denial will not help strengthen India’s democracy.
Rather, we should introspect: Why is Freedom of Press questioned in India, one of the largest democracies in world? Why can’t we achieve what a relatively small country like Norway has? The fact that we are above Pakistan in that list offers no solace because we are just one step ahead of our neighbouring country in the ranking. Just imagine the situation: A country which has never claimed to be a democratic one since its inception is running neck and neck with a country which adopted democracy right after its Independence.
More worrying is the fact that Freedom of Press in India is not affected by terrorist activities. It is not a case of terrorists killing Indian journalists at will—many Indian journalists have lost their lives due to internal squabbles. Why are journalists being attacked? Apparently the deceased journalists, through their writings, angered the powerful. But a close study of all such cases will prove beyond doubt that there is a particular design behind such killings. Voices, which are advocating Free Speech, tolerance and reason, are being throttled systematically. Take the case of Gauri Lankesh. The woman journalist was murdered as she refused to give up her crusade for a free society, a society where every citizen would be able to express their views without fear. The brave lady took her detractors head-on. But she could not see her dreams come true as assailants’ bullets took her life prematurely.
Without being frightened or holding prejudice against anyone, the time has come to say that journalism in India has undergone a sea change in the recent times. These days, journalists are being attacked regularly even when they are performing their duties. A recent example is the protest by working journalists in West Bengal—the media persons were attacked when they were reporting the violence instigated by a section of the ruling party to prevent opposition parties from filing nominations to the Panchayat polls.
In Kerala, a procession by right-wing activists suddenly turned violent and led to attacking a Press club. If this is the state of Freedom of Press in the two most-educated states in the country, the condition of other states can be understood easily. The so-called fourth pillar of democracy is under attack across the country. The job of a journalist today is as risky as that of security personnel deployed at borders or places dominated by terrorists. Yet, no matter how deplorable the situation is or how many challenges the media may have to face, Freedom of Press should be preserved at any cost. Otherwise, the future of India’s democracy is bleak.

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