Representational picture .AFP PHOTO/AMC
In yet another incident of violence against journalists, Akshay Singh, who was covering the Vyapam Scam, was in Madhya Pradesh (MP) interviewing the parents of a girl who was found dead near railway tracks recently after her links with the scam became public. During the interview, Singh began to feel uneasy and was rushed a hospital. He was declared brought dead. A post mortem is currently being conducted to determine the cause of his death.
Akshay Singh’s untimely death makes the Vyapam scam – which already involves 40 other “coincidental” deaths – even more murky. MP Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan has promised a thorough investigation into each and every death, even as media attention regarding high government involvement rises.
But Singh’s death highlights another issue – India is becoming increasingly unsafe for journalists. Last month alone saw 3 unique cases of violence against journalists: one was burnt alive, another beaten and dragged behind a motorbike, and the third abducted and murdered. All three of them had spoken up against the political establishment or written against the mining mafia, and all three were silenced.
In the World Press Freedom Index of 2014, India was ranked 141 out of 180 countries. This implies India is the one of the least safe places for journalists and reporters – the people whose job it is to reveal the truth.
But what’s even more disturbing is that there’s just not enough outrage over the issue! Historically, governments have fallen and democracies were reinvented when freethinkers were silenced (the USA, Egypt, Germany, Italy, Vietnam). But in our country the fact that 4 honest journalists who were trying to disclose the truth were either killed or crippled by people in power – this is not igniting the outrage that it should. Neither is anything being done to curb the wave of violence against journalists.
Journalism is one of the pillars of democracy. Journalists are entrusted with the sacred task of framing the national debate, helping citizens formulate the right opinions, and making sure that the country has the proper information so that its leaders can make the proper decisions.
If the people responsible for change and truth face constant danger of violence and murder, there’s something fundamentally and seriously wrong with the system. And it is a serious blot on our image as a democracy.