As freedom of the press under the Narendra Modi-led BJP government remains under threat with recent ED raids on Newsclick, the detention of journalist Mandeep Punia and cases registered against the The Wire, journalists’ organisations in Delhi came together in a symbolic silent protest this afternoon. The bodies included the Press Council of India, Indian Women’s Press Corps, Delhi Union of Journalists and others who sat in protest outside the Press Club of India.
The unions and several eminent media persons said message that gagging of press freedom will not be acceptable and that they would continue to raise their voice against the stifling of marginalised voices and those who speak truth to power.
Present at the protest, K. Amarnath, member of the Press Council said: “This government is out to stifle the voice of criticism and dissent. Newsclick is giving a voice to those who are not represented in the media; when a news portal does it, its voice is being stifled. The intention is to tell the people that the voices of Adanis and Ambanis will be shown and the narrative of the ruling dispensation will find its space. I am here to stand against that.”
Last week, Newsclick’s office and the home of its Editor-in-Chief Prabir Purkayastha and that of several members of its editorial staff were raided by the Enforcement Directorate. The raids and other arrests of journalists from the media fraternity are being seen as an attempt to gag free press in India in the light of resistance movements on the ground.
“There is a rising fear of persecution for reporters and other dissenting voices in India. In just five years under Prime Minister Narendra Modi, India’s place in Reporters Without Borders’ press freedom index has dropped to 142nd in 2020 from 136th in 2015. India falls behind most of its neighbors, including Myanmar (139), Afghanistan (122), Bhutan (67), Nepal (112), and Sri Lanka (127),” the Press Freedom Index highlighted,
Speaking to Newsclick, Sujata Madhok of the Delhi Union of Journalists said, “While India claims to be the largest democracy in the world, the attacks on press freedom are denting the voice of the marginalised. It is not an attempt to silence one outlet but so many more. The government has made it difficult to do free and fair journalism; we see a more targeted attack in the heart of New Delhi.”
Senior journalist Rajdeep Sardesai, who has had his troubles with the establishment recently, said: “A silent protest is a form of protest but silence is not an option.”
Present among many senior members of the fraternity, former Aam Aadmi Party member and journalist Ashutosh said: “The raid was a means to send out a message to the entire fraternity that this is what the government is capable of. The government wants to say that independent journalism will not work; today it is Newsclick tomorrow it could be you. But for us, this is a Gandhiwadi way of protesting against the attack on press freedom. The job of the press is to report the truth and what we see. The only job of a journalist is to report the truth.”
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