Indian Journalist’s Murder: The Ultimate Form of Press Censorship?

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Indian Journalist’s Murder: The Ultimate Form of Press Censorship?

Armed Conflicts, Asia-Pacific, Crime & Justice, Democracy, Featured, Headlines, Human Rights, Press Freedom, TerraViva United Nations BHUBANESWAR, India, Sep 7 2017 (IPS) – Dauntlessly crusading against curbs on freedom of speech, fifty-five-year-old Indian journalist Gauri Lankesh was gunned down at her very doorstep in Bengaluru city on the evening of Sep. 5, taking three bullets of the seven fired in her lungs and heart. She was shot from just three feet away. Known for her vocal stand against India’s growing right-wing ideology, communal politics and majoritian policies, Lankesh ran bold and forthright anti-establishment reports on the eponymous Gauri Lankesh Patrike, a regional language tabloid published, owned and edited by her since 2005.”Gauri Lankesh’s death is another stark reminder of how violence is the new normal (in India).” –A senior journalist She ran the paper only on subscriptions from loyal readers from across remote villages of Karnataka State. The paper carried no advertisements, following in the tradition of her socialist poet, playwright and journalist father who started the original tabloid. Gauri Lankesh described herself on her Twitter handle as a journalist-activist. Fluent in both English and the regional Kannada language, she fearlessly broadcast her far-left of centre and pro-Dalit ideologies against religious fundamentalism and the caste system, reaching a huge mass grassroots population. Speaking at her funeral, Karnataka’s chief minister M Siddaramaiah said, “Gauri brokered deals with Naxalites (Left-wing extremists) in Karnataka. She helped them enter the mainstream and played a vital role of a negotiator between the State and the extremists.” An activity which extremists cadres may have wanted to halt, Lankesh’s brother Indrajit Lankesh said today. Known as a sympathizer of left-wing extremists, Lankesh was among the few who could empathise with the poverty, oppression and injustices that had pushed these people to pick up arms against the government. In November, Lankesh was convicted in two libel suits filed by the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) parliamentarians for her 2008 article alleging that they had criminal dealings. She was, however, granted bail and was planning to appeal to a higher court. Majority of journalists killed wrote on politics and corruption Lankesh’s voice being silenced once again highlights that journalists covering politics and corruption in India are most at risk of being silenced by killing. Over half of the 27 journalists murdered in the country since 1992 were covering politics and corruption – the two beats most likely to provoke violent repercussions, finds the Committee to Protect Journalist (CPJ). The threat from these seems to be rising. India continues to languish in the bottom third of the 2017 World Press Freedom Index, ranking 136th of 180 countries. Among India’s neighbours, most fare better, including conflict-torn Afghanistan at 120, Pakistan at 139, Sri Lanka at 141, , Bangladesh at 146, Nepal at 100, Bhutan at 84 and China at 176. Norway leads while North Korea is at the bottom. The Index ranks countries according to the level of freedom available to journalists. It is a snapshot of the media freedom situation based on an evaluation of pluralism, independence of the media, quality of legislative framework and safety of journalists in each country. ‘It is not what you said, but why you said it’ A friend of the slain journalist who was also from the media fraternity is quoted as saying that Lankesh was very “in your face” in her brand of progressive activism against radical Hinduism. “In my frequent interactions with her, I would tell her that her whole rhetoric should be more subtle,” her friend says. “She was very naive and she was politically incorrect. She was very bold, but indulged in sloganeering of a certain kind which I said would not achieve anything. She needed to strategize.” “Our right to dissent is being threatened,” the intrepid journalist said instead. Bold red placards at her funeral read, “It is not what you said, but why you said it.” “Given the ways in which speech is being stifled, dire days lie ahead,” Lankesh told an online portal a few months before her death, in an intuitive foretelling of her violent end. She installed two closed circuit surveillance systems a fortnight before the fatal attack. No link has yet been established between her death and her ideology or writing by police investigations, but because she so fiercely fought for freedom of speech and freedom of thought, large sections of Indian media protesting her killing are expressing concern over what they described as a growing intolerance of dissenting political voices.Related IPS ArticlesMuzzling the Media: CambodiaInternet Shutdowns in Africa Stifling Press FreedomA Global Call for Journalists’ Safety A senior journalist sums up the current sentiment saying, “Gaur
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On September 8, 2017
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