Judiciary, Executive, Legislature and Media are the four pillars of democracy. If any of the pillars overpowers the other or gets overpowered by the other, democracy is said to be functionally weak. Thus suggestively, a balance among the four should be maintained. Media being the fourth pillar ensures that transparency is achieved in all the three systems. The Indian media has played an exceptional role in establishing as well as defining democracy, be it pre-independence or post-independence. Media, especially a journalist is considered as the mirror of the nation and society.
Unfortunately, a data released by the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) revealed that since 1992, 41 journalists have been killed in the nation. The Global Impunity Index by CPJ ranked India 13th in 2016 and 12th in 2017. A report by International Federation of Journalists released in 2015, states that India has the third highest death rate of journalists after Iraq and Syria. Also in the 2017 World Press Freedom Index, India’s rank fell to 136th tagging it as the ‘least free’ nation for active journalists. 54 reported attacks on journalists, three cases of television news channel being banned and 45 media website shutdowns on the internet between January 2016 to April 2017 is the data released by India Freedom Report in 2017. The numbers above reflect the ‘Freedom of Expression and Speech’ of the journalist in the nation as well as question the failure of the government to protect the bricks of its fourth pillar.
Nayek Amit Debbarma and rifleman Dharmendra Kumar were arrested for killing Sudeep Dutta Bhowmik, a journalist in Syandhan Patrika (a regional newspaper in Tripura). Bhowmik had written 11 articles about corruption charges against Debbarma who was the commandant in the battalion headquarters of Tripura State Rifles (TSR), Agartala. A week later, Santanu Bhowmik, another local journalist was murdered. The Editor’s Guild of India and Forum for Protection of Journalists (FPJ) condemned the murder and requested the government to take strict measures to protect the journalists in the nation.
“We urge the government to protect the lives of the journalists on the field.”
-Gautam Lahiri (President of Press Club of India)
Gauri Lankesh, a Kannada newspaper editor and a strong critic of Hindu nationalist Bhartiya Janta Party was shot dead in her residence on 5th of September, 2017. Her murder was followed by murders of Santanu Bhowmik and K. J. Singh (along with his mother). Those spared to live have received threat messages and phone calls. The sources traced through this phonecalls are the group of Hindu nationalist, groups of BJP and RSS supporters. Senior Editor of NDTV, Ravish Kumar received derogatory messages and death threats after repeatedly getting added on various WhatsApp groups. Alt News traced down the number issuing such messages to Kumar which eventually zeroed down to Niraj Dave, an employee of BJP’s IT Cell, whom even Prime Minister Modi follows.
A journalist in Quint had to face online harassment as she was sent “televised gang rape” and death threats. Dhanya Rajendra, a journalist in The News Minute website received more than 30,000 offensive and malevolent tweets. Dhruv Rathee, an independent journalist released a video on his Youtube channel “Intelligent Citizen”, in which he interviewed Mahavir, the ex-employee of BJP’s IT Cell. Mahavir revealed that thousands of youths are recruited every year by the BJP IT Cell to aggressively troll people, especially journalists who say or express anything against BJP.
“Freedom of Expression” though has become buffoonery for journalists but the ruling party seems to be vigorously exercising its “Right to Dissent”. On one hand media, contradicting to its ethic of being neutral, have become biased and tendentious to political parties (mostly the ruling party) and on the other hand, the journalists doing justice to the profession of journalism as well as are being the critical watchdogs of the system are being gunned down. What has to be seen is how long will the democracy stand firm when the base of its fourth prominent pillar has been imperceptibly getting uprooted.