Media is considered the main pillar of every society and state. Its role is now being viewed through the prism of policy making. The digitalization of the world has massively increased the role of independent and unbiased media. Whether print or electronic/social media, their reporting has an inner impact on the common masses. No one can deny the potential role of media.
Recently, the Human Rights and Religious Freedom Journalism Awards (HRRFJA) were organized by Indian American Muslim Council (IAMC), a US-based group, to maintain New Delhi’s forbearance and liberal values under the incumbent BJP’s government. The awards highlighted negated aspects of society overlooked by mainstream media. The award ceremony systematically highlighted discriminatory and biased policies of New Delhi against Muslims during Covid-19 and gross human rights abuses in Kashmir. Thanks to the liberal order for highlighting greater cause to create awareness for humanity, the facts, and reporting of the media regarding human rights abuses were factual and verified through independent sources.
The sole objective of organizing these awards was to highlight different stories and viewpoints regarding oppressed people. The President of IAMC, Syed Ali, contended that the awards’ jury had difficulty selecting winners due to pressure emanating from the regime in New Delhi. It is pertinent to mention here that Indian media has become a mouthpiece of the government to increase the Hindutva-driven agenda of the BJP’s government. This is very insane. The media fraternity must be unbiased while reporting any incident or news story. It should not side with any particular political party in achieving political objectives. The journalist fraternity should highlight the perspectives of both sides instead of targeting or launching a scathing campaign against a particular community, which is totally against the fundamental ethos of journalism.
The President of IAMC praised the bravery of journalists who performed their duties with dedication and determination to highlight the human cause without fear. Interestingly, these journalists performed their duties without having proper financial support, other logistic facilities, and fear of being attacked by Indian forces. Their act is commendable, though. Despite all odds, as I mentioned above, the brave journalists highlighted the difficulties and other stress of Kashmiri people living in the darkest era. Not only Kashmir, but they also highlighted discriminatory treatment being carried out against non-Hindu communities at the behest of the Indian government.
While addressing the gathering, the President of Democracy Now, Amy Goodman, highlighted India’s troubling trends toward tyranny and thanked journalists for their fortitude and brave act of journalism while living under the fear of being attacked. Goodman further asserted that strong forces strive to conceal the truth and restrict access to information, making journalists’ work more difficult and frequently hazardous.
Many other journalists also addressed the gathering and presented their outlook on journalism and its ethos. Gypsy Guillen Kaiser, activist and communicator with Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), spoke about the harsh treatment of Muslim journalists in India. They also talked about difficulties being faced by Indian journalists hailing from the Muslim community. They noted that it has become difficult for journalists to write or report against the Indian government. Anyone dares to report anything against the Modi government is labeled a traitor and charged under string sedition laws. British journalist Dr. Ridley further said HRRF Journalism Prizes provide hope and peace to Indian journalists on the ground who report painful truths.
Under the Modi regime, journalists cannot write anything against government policies. Those writing against the Modi government are being sentenced to jail for an indefinite period. Most imprisoned journalists are from the Muslim community. Journalists hailing from Kashmir, Syed Shahriyar, and Shahid Tantray have won Human Rights and Religious Freedom Journalism Awards (HRRFJA) 2022 despite the Indian government’s autocratic policies. It shows that Kashmiri journalists are internationally getting recognition, even though Modi’s government is suppressing Kashmiri voices.
Since the abrogation of Article 370, Kashmiri journalists have been detained with other political leaders. In the past, Khurram Parvez, a human rights activist, has been arrested because of his efforts to highlight human rights abuses. Instead of recognizing the efforts of Kashmiri journalists, the Indian government is going all out to stop them from independently working and reporting facts and figures. The journalists are looking toward global media watchdogs for their release and right to do unbiased journalism.
Things are going out of control in India as both military and judiciary have become parties to unlawful acts of the Indian government. Judiciary is endorsing every illegal move of the Modi government. Meanwhile, armed forces are executing the government’s plan to target non-Hindu communities. Amy Goodman repeatedly expressed concern about India becoming more autocratic. Indian journalists who put in long hours on the ground and report the brutal facts are given solace and hope.
Freedom of media/ journalism is an essential element for the progress of every state. Positive and unbiased reporting gives people an immense opportunity to indulge in the internal as well as external environment of the world. A free press may inform citizens about their leaders’ successes and failures, convey the people’s needs and preferences to the government, and facilitate the free interchange of ideas. So, the state must not impose curbs on press freedom and instead support them by providing support. It is the responsibility of international media watchdogs to ensure media freedom and impartiality of journalism.
*The author is an Islamabad-based expert in strategic affairs.
**The Diplomatic Insight does not take any position on issues. The views represented herein are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Diplomatic Insight and its staff