The Network of Women in Media, India (NWMI), in its 12th national conference held in Hyderabad from November 11 to 13, expresses its concern at the state of siege under which the media finds itself. Recent examples include those of a journalist being shot dead in Bihar, assaults by the police in Tamil Nadu, the one-day attempted ban on NDTV India, a similar ban ordered on the Assam TV channel, News Time, and the over-one-month ban on the daily Kashmir Reader.
NWMI finds a growing intolerance towards freedom of expression which is as much a fundamental right of the media as of citizens. Journalists while simply doing their job of reporting have been jailed or even killed.
NWMI also expresses its concern that media managements do not stand up for their employees and contributors although they feel their stories are worth using. Be it false cases filed under the anti-terror act UAPA or Section 153 A IPC, or defamation cases filed by the Tamil Nadu government, the journalist is left to fight on her or his own.
Journalists are facing threats – direct or veiled – from powerful sections such as caste groups, political parties, corporate houses and even lawyers. Several journalists have even lost their lives in the past one year.
Journalists also face restrictions on what they can report, with media managements instructing them to tailor their stories to market demands and political agendas.
NWMI finds it unacceptable that while national channels and incidents regarding the media in the capital and in big metros receive attention, equally and sometimes more serious assaults on journalists in the remote interiors, for example, in the tribal pockets of Chhattisgarh and Odisha, remain relatively unknown. The media’s right to freedom of expression must be upheld whether it involves prominent media houses or unknown journalists in inaccessible corners who work under greater risk.
NWMI hopes that society recognises that the intimidating atmosphere in which journalists have to work today is ultimately a threat to people’s own right to be informed.