Popular Indian media couple Rajdeep Sardesai and Sagarika Ghose yesterday called on fellow journalists to be fearless against increasing pressure and threat faced by reporters in the South Asian country.
Speaking at an interactive session at the fourth evening of Sharjah International Book Fair (SIBF), both Sardesai and Ghose, who are here to promote their latest books, spoke out against the climate of intimidation faced by journalists in India.
“Today journalists are scared and fearful because of the threat they feel for doing their job honestly. Several journalists like Gauri Lankesh, who was a friend of mine, and Shantanu Bhaumik were killed for doing their duty. RTI (right to information) activists are being threatened and killed. A climate of fear and intimidation is being created, but we need to stand up against this. Journalism is part of a democratic infrastructure and there is no journalism without bravery,” said Sagarika Ghose, who recently unveiled her third book Indira, India’s Most Powerful Prime Minister.
Echoing Ghose, Sardesai said that there is a great deal of governmental intimidation faced by the Indian media today.
“Government is using advertisement to muzzle the media, which is very unfortunate. They want us to do PR for them. Sadly, majority of the mainstream media has buckled under the pressure; media is not doing its duty as it should. Indian TV news has become a circus, filled with fake news, abuse and sensation. TRP (rating) decides the content; we are giving voice to extremists on both sides, while there is no focus on real issues like farmer suicides which are rampant,” said Sardesai, whose second book Democracy’s XI was launched last month.
Despite the vicious climate, the couple urged journalists and common people to not lose hope. Giving the example of cricket, which is the biggest sport in India and the focus of his book, Sardesai said: “In India, politics divides people and cricket unites, that is why I chose to write this book. To present these amazing stories of hope and to show the amazing power this sport has to transform lives. I want to look at glasses half full. Despite all the negativity, there is so much positivity happening in the country. Today in the Indian cricket team, seven players are from small towns. India’s biggest revolution is happening in the small towns, but it is still an incomplete revolution and it is our job to take it forward.”
He added: “No country is built by bad people, rather a country is built by the numerous work of good people, by the common people who are going through daily struggle are also doing a service to the country. The society rises and survives through brave work by common people.”