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Delhi: Journalists Flag Concern Over Growing Attacks on Journalists, Media Outlets

The protest meeting on ‘State of Democracy & Journalists Rights’, held by DUJ/NAJ, called for keeping up the fight to keep people informed about democratic struggles and right to free speech.

Wearing Black Badges and holding candles of protest, the Delhi Union of Journalists and National Alliance of Journalists held a protest meeting to discuss the State of Democracy & Journalists' Rights at the DUJ Amphitheatre on Saturday December 23, 2023. Photo Credit :DUJ

New Delhi: A protest meeting was held by journalists, wearing black badges and holding candles, to raise their concerns over the growing threats to free speech and rising attacks on journalists and media organisations.

The protest meeting on the “State of Democracy & Journalists Rights”, was held here on Saturday by the Delhi Union of Journalists (DUJ) and the National Alliance of Journalists (JAC), according to a press statement issued by DUJ.

“This protest meeting raised the growing threats to free speech, the increasing attacks on journalists and media organisations, the denial of labour rights through the Labour Codes and pendency of disputes in courts and the broader threats to Parliamentary democracy, given the en masse suspension of Members of Parliament and the arbitrary passing of critical Bills without discussion, in their absence,” said the DUJ/NAJ statement.

 Senior advocate Sanjay Hegde, in his solidarity message to journalists, said: “I am happy that Democracy and Journalists' Rights, are still being sought to be discussed and protected at the office of the Delhi Union of Journalists. I am out of Delhi, but present with you in spirit.  To keep insisting on finding out the truth and speaking that truth to power, is the essence of journalism and the best safeguard for democracy. Unfortunately, in an era of post-truth, the conscientious journalist is faced with a choice of succumbing to market forces or being driven out of the media market. While people still want to be informed, they are most gratified, if the information that they got on WhatsApp, is confirmed in print or on television. Media has now become not only a battlefield of misinformation but also an arena of competitive narratives,”

Hegde said independence of the media has been held to be “part of the citizens' right of informed free speech”, adding that “In a diminishing market for journalistic integrity and rigour, it is heartening to know that there are still bastions of journalistic integrity that are standing out.”

The senior advocate noted that despite growing attacks, news organisations “have not quit fighting the good fight.”

“Whether it be the journalists of Newsclick or Kashmir Times, or those who are getting killed on the frontlines in Gaza, the odds seem insurmountable, but yet the desire to correctly report the story continues undiminished. I salute this undiminished courage shown by those who have chosen to persist, in comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable. George Orwell said that, "In a time of deceit telling the truth is a revolutionary act." May the revolution of Satyameva Jayate long continue.” He added.

 Addressing the gathering, senior journalist Paranjoy Guha Thakurta spoke of the attacks on Newsclick, the raids on homes of 88 journalists and staff and the indefinite seizure of 300 personal electronic devices including mobiles, laptops, hard discs etc that are “the basic tools of our trade.” He said Prabir Purkayastha and Amit Chakraborty continued to be in jail while the UAPA threat loomed over many others, the statement read.

 NAJ President and DUJ Vice President SK Pande pointed out that in the past 10 years journalism and the journalists had been “battered and bruised as never before in a undeclared Emergency amidst dark shadows of creeping fascism and McCarthyism”.

He noted that independent journalism was “being specially targeted”.

“By early next month, editor Prabir Purkayastha and his colleague would have spent around 90 days in custody. Frequent attacks on The Wire, Kashmir Times, and journalists in Kashmir also laid bare a series of attacks to name a few. The wage fixation machinery is now virtually dead as are all labour laws and journalists’ rights.

Small and medium newspapers and cooperatives are virtually dead and the Urdu press are reduced to nothingness despite its glorious past. The Press Information Bureau is a virtual police information bureau and the veteran journalists’ category, and Parliament central hall passes for journalists’ news gathering have been reduced to nothingness,” he added.

 Senior journalist Bhasha Singh said “we (journalists) face a crisis of democracy, not just journalism. The mainstream media no longer report news, they report according to a set, dictated agenda. People in different fields are facing many problems but these are not reported. It is vital now to use small platforms everywhere and connect these to bigger platforms and struggle to promote democracy and rights”. 

 Veteran journalist and feature writer Rashme Sehgal said there was a lack of transparency and secret hands behind many official decisions. She cited Agniveer as an example of a scheme that most Army persons opposed but for some reason had been pushed through.

Senior journalist Faraz Ahmed said that democracy had faced a severe battering and journalism was part of that, with “Godi media reducing the media to a farce.”

 Speaking in solidarity, Kerala Union of Working Journalists’ Delhi unit general secretary Dhanasumod spoke of the bright light of some relief provided in the case of Siddique Kappan fought by the KUWJ both inside and outside the court, but he (Kappan) continues to suffer the agony, he added.

 Senior journalist T.K. Rajalakshmi said in the media we face attacks from both within and without. “We have to face the employers' arbitrary decisions, agenda diktats and even retrenchments. The government too is increasingly trying to control media, including social media, through moves like the Telecom Bill and the Broadcasting Bill.” However, she said, we must not be disheartened but organise and resist censorship through such means.

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