The role of free press in India is diminishing year by year, recently it ranked 142 out of 180 countries on the World Press Freedom Index 2020 released by ‘Reporters Without Borders’. The rank of India has been declining steadily since last two years seemingly due to the following reasons
1) Trolling of journalists on social media by the right wing followers.
2) Physical attacks on journalists like Gauri Lankesh, Santanu Bhowmik, Shujat Bukhari, etc.
3) Communication blackout in Kashmir after abrogation of Article-370.
4) Under reporting of CAA-NRC-NPR issue.
5) Undue advantage given by government to some journalists like Arnab Goswami, Suresh Chavhanke, etc
Islamophobia through Media
The right wing journalists are being slapped with a lot of police reports, Arnab Goswami of Republic TV was booked last week allegedly for inflammatory language and communalising the Palghar mob lynching. A similar case was also booked against Sudhir chaudhary for propagating ‘Zameen Jihad’ on his show DNA, which is being aired on Zee news. Rahul Kanwal of IndiaToday stoked a controversy when he telecasted a show titled ‘Madarsa Hotspots’ for Covid-19 scare and held madarsas responsible for the spread of the virus. Every other day, the editor-in-chief of Sudarshan news, Suresh Chavhanke spills out venom against the minorities of India in general and Muslims in particular. All these programmes will brainwash the youth of present generations and the future outcome will be filled with hatred and misery.
The Pulitzer Prize Controversy
Channi Ananad, Mukhtar Khan and Dar Yasin of Associated Press were awarded for ‘Feature Photography’ for their striking photos of miserable Kashmiri lives during the clampdown of phone and internet services in the valley amidst concerns of police actions on journalists. The Pulitzer Prize is awarded every year for achievements in journalism, literature and Art in 21 categories across the globe. Though the pictures doesn’t make out don’t point out any political statements, the award was termed as ‘anti-national’ by right wing groups merely because it was awarded for showing the ground conditions of Kashmir.
The Tablighi Jamat Issue
Almost every section of media flogged their whip on the Tablighi jamat after it held a congregation in its markaz in mid March. An FIR was registered against Maulana Saad Kandhalwi for allegedly asking members of Jamat not to follow social distancing norms and prohibitory orders through a audio clip which was being circulated on WhatsApp. Recently, according to a report of Indian Express, Delhi Police during its initial investigation found that the clip was doctored. Tablighi jamat was made a scapegoat for the spread of the corona virus in India.
The Muslims of India are not being allowed into mainstream lives on the pretext of spreading corona virus among others. They were beaten in many places across the country. Many hospitals denied the treatment of patients belonging to the Muslim community. On 10th April, a nurse named Ambreen Khan who was fighting on frontline against the deadly virus was attacked and molested by a furious mob in Punjab. The Washington Post reported that a former Army officer, Saheemuddin (49) was attacked by a mob for going on his bike in the rural area of Haryana state. His vocal cords were badly ruptured and his trachea was severly damaged. Ruksana Parveen (15) of West Bengal was being denied water from a community tap just because she was a Muslim. A disabled man, Mohd Yusuf Ilyas Shaik was blamed for deliberately dropping a currency note to spread the virus in Navsari town of Gujarat which turned out to be false news.
Role of Social Media
The veteran journalist Rajat Sharma of IndiaTV tweeted a photo claiming the crowd standing outside a mosque in Mumbai were Muslims and they were going home without following the rules of social distancing prescribed by the government, which later turned out to be untrue. The fact checking websites such as Altnews have debunked many such reports of fake news being circulated on the social media targeting Muslims in India. Many eminent personalities from the Arab world have also raised their voices against the injustices caused to their fellow brothers of the sub-continent. Soon after, Prime Minister Modi broke his silence by tweeting that “COVID-19 does not see race, religion, colour, caste, creed, language or borders before striking. Our response and conduct thereafter should attach primacy to unity and brotherhood. We are in this together”.
The future of India seems withering if we don’t come up with immediate solutions to tackle this despise. The government of the day should come with strong IT laws to curb fake news, doctored audio & videos on social media. Also, there is an alarming need to a check on mainstream journalism for propagating fake news through their channels.