Pushing journalism underground

Aheli Moitra


Throughout journalism school, students are taught to be neutral observers of unfolding events. There is another critical aspect that is taught to journalism students that is often forgotten: to be a voice for the voiceless and become a platform for injustice to be addressed. In the scheme of the democratic nation state, the press is the fourth pillar on the basis of which a stable society is built.


Without the analysis of fault lines in governance, or the shape of politics, the nation state becomes doomed to failure.
The murder of journalist Gauri Lankesh in Bangalore on the evening of September 5 highlights that impending doom for the state of nations we fondly call India.


Lankesh (55) was found dead on her verandah around 8pm with bullet wounds to her head and chest. Television reports said seven bullets were fired at her and three hit her. According to the Karnataka police, at least three suspects were involved in her killing.


She was the editor of Gauri Lankesh Patrike, often writing against majoritarian right wing politics and communal violence in the country.


The Chief Minister of Karnataka termed the murder a part of “organized crime.”


Although it is yet to be ascertained who ordered her killing, and why, her outspoken work for minorities and the marginalized who inhabit the Indian Union has drawn flak in the wake of her death.


Several right wing activists launched attacks on her soul by holding her responsible for her own death. Her crime? “Leftist, anti establishment, anti hindu,” was their common refrain.


Media polarization in the country has also hit a new low. Hostile comments in the aftermath of Gauri’s death by journalists shows how inhumane the journalists’ community has become, divided sorely on the lines of who supports whom, justifiable to any extent of violence.


With the state stumbling to safeguard journalists, the fourth pillar has taken a beating throughout the Indian subcontinent.


In Nagaland State, we have already seen how journalism is pushed underground by state and non state actors alike. If the press chooses not to act as a mouthpiece for all and sundry here, it is abused and hounded. Reporting in Nagaland State is like walking on shards of glass with the State an onlooker, even abettor, instead of protector of the supposed-to-be-free press.


It only shows the extent to which the State’s citizens live free lives.


There is little respect for critical journalism even among citizens. Journalists are asked by way of veiled threats if they are at an event to “critique or cover?” To ‘cover’ an event, for many, means for the press to bend backward in the praise of organizers and be blind to critique. This has succeeded to a large extent. Being a voice for minorities or questioning the status quo attracts venom from the majority.


The state of journalism in Nagaland, and how this has shaped a grim democracy here, is a reflection of what all of the Indian Union could one day be—a society cracking at its knees.


RIP Gauri Lankesh.


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