Freedom of Press is not dead yet!

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The recent Nobel Peace Prize for Maria Ressa and Dmitri A Muratov proves the fact that not all is lost for the Freedom of the Press. The dual Nobel Peace Prize for journalists comes at a time when there is “increasing authoritarianism” and “swirling misinformation.” Surely the Nobel Prize Committee has riled dictators with the choice. Ressa from the Philippines and Muratov from Russia have been awarded for holding their leaders to account with their journalism. The bhakts, of course, will agree to disagree and some even call the committee to be comprised of conscripted left-liberals and decidedly anti-right wing. Nevertheless, the fact shall remain that Ressa and Dmitri wrote and reported against authoritarianism and it didn’t matter which side of the aisle they or their targets were. What comes as jubilation for journalists all over the globe, is the fact that two journalists being recognised by the Nobel Prize Committee comes as a respite during the times when scribes have to undergo repression in the world.

In India, under the Narendra Modi-led BJP government, there’s the saccharine-spitting ‘Godi Media’ and the fire-spitting ‘Lutyen’s Media’. And the ‘Godi’ are not happy with this Nobel pick. It’s another matter that India’s journalists routinely move from Godi to Lutyen’s. That’s because the majority of journalists are neither “left” nor “right”. Apart from a minuscule, most take their journalistic vows seriously and report “both sides” diligently. Sadly enough, these are not the ‘celeb’ TV anchors and print editors with ideology stitched to their collars, owing allegiance to media barons. These are journalists who face authoritarianism day in and day out. Some of them even get killed in the line of work. This is a reminder of the October 3 incident where a photojournalist was “mowed” to death by a marauding jeep in Lakhimpur-Kheri. The ‘jeep’ was allegedly driven by the son of a minister in the Modi Government. So far Prime Minister Narendra Modi has not tweeted his grief though he’s not forgotten that he is on Twitter. Rest assured Modi will not tweet “congrats” to Putin for Dmitri getting the Nobel.

India’s media, on the other hand, is a hotbed of political warfare. There is bitter rivalry between those with Modi and those against Modi. And because elections happen year-round, the fight is never-ending. But what’s on display is not Nobel Prize material. Rana Ayyub may be shortlisted for the Nobel, if ever because she has “abroad support” – WaPo, NYT, CNN, Time, The Guardian, etc. Otherwise, the political affiliations of most Indian journalists are too glaring for any of them to land a shot at the Nobel. Having said this, the Nobel for Ressa and Muratov is reassurance that the fight against media repression continues. However, the Nobel Peace Prize doesn’t mean that Muratov will ever live in peace! In India, a journalist can lose his job for being overly excited about targeting the government with “scoops”. Media barons guided by the “authorities” often decide what is written and reported. Here is to hoping that there is light on the other side of the tunnel even here in our own India!

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