How Shujaat Bukhari’s murder exposes divide in media industry, dangers faced by fearless scribes
New Delhi, June 15: Currently, journalism in India is in the doldrums, to put it mildly. While on the one hand freedom of speech of journalists is under constant attack, on the other hand a group of so-called journalists have easily succumbed to the pressure of powerful people and politicians without giving a fight.
To add to the woes of media, a huge division has developed within the fraternity--if one group accuses the other as "anti-nationals", the second group has named the alleged pro-government journalists as "godi media" (lapdog media).
In such a messy situation, it is not easy for any journalist, especially a reporter on the ground, to work independently and bring the truth to the fore. The daily threats against journalists who refuse to toe the majoritarian line have become so common that it has almost become normal.
A cursory view of social media will give a better understanding about the kind of warnings faced by many journalists. The threats issued against journalists have become more and more frightening. Many women scribes have received rape threats on social media.
Even police complaints against those who abuse journalists on social media have yielded little results. The pitiful state of journalism is well-displayed every evening on various television news channels where shouting anchors look more like PR people than journalists.
These days, journalists are also called as "jokers". Do we need to say more to highlight the lows of journalism? In spite of all these darkness, there is a silver lining. A small group of fearless men and women are still striving to uphold the basic tenets of journalism, in spite of coercions and temptations (which include big bucks, promotions or a Rajya Sabha seat to name a few).
Amid all these when we hear that a brave and neutral voice working in one of the most difficult terrains in the world, Jammu and Kashmir, being shot dead, the heart sinks for a while and we can't help asking, "Why Shujaat Bukhari, the editor of Rising Kashmir, was killed?"
We asked the same question when journalist-activist Gauri Lankesh was shot dead in front of her house in Bengaluru last year. Along with Gauri, 11 other journalists were killed in suspicious situations in India last year. Bukhari and four more journalists were already killed in 2018. What does it say? Freedom of the press is a fallacy?
According to the 2018 World Press Freedom Index compiled by Reporters Without Borders, India ranks 138 among 180 countries in the world. The country's rank in terms of press freedom has dropped from 136 to 138. The report says "hate speeches" and "physical violence" against journalists are the key reasons why Indian journalists enjoy so little freedom while delivering their duties.
Bukhari's assassination by three bike-borne assailants in the heart of Srinagar on Thursday evening has been widely condemned by many. Bukhari belonged to the rare breed of righteous and neutral journalists who never feared from speaking the truth. He like Gauri was killed for upholding truth and integrity. Unfortunately, as condolences poured in for Bukhari, many on social media did not stop from vilifying the man and his work.
His murder was justified by the "hate brigade" as he allegedly supported the "jihadis". Such mindless rationalisation of a brutal murder was also seen when "haters" celebrated Gauri's death in abusive language.
#Kashmir: Editor of Rising Kashmir Shujaat Bukhari Ji & his PSO Shot Dead by Terrorists outside his office In Press Colony in Srinagar— Jagrati Shukla (@JagratiShukla29) June 14, 2018
Very Unfortunate. The very Jihadis whom he sympathized with, killed him. They are not for Kashmiriyat.#RisingKashmir #ShujaatBukhari #Srinagar pic.twitter.com/VHzuAw5s9J
Not the done thing to revisit these facts at this terribly sad moment, but one must to counter the slander and falsification.— Anand Ranganathan (@ARanganathan72) June 14, 2018
When I spoke of the late Shujaat Bukhari in context of Kashmir, I quoted these three exact statements of his. These tweets still exist. 5/n pic.twitter.com/zHsfou18bE
I mourn Shujaat Bukhari's assassination despite the fact that he got assasinated at the hands of very forces he so valiantly defended..Most shocking that Lutyens media lionising him as a symbol of "courageous, independent journalism" & his pro secession politics as "moderate".— MadhuPurnima Kishwar (@madhukishwar) June 15, 2018
Others stood up for the brave, moderate voice from Kashmir who was also a friend, philosopher and guide to many young journalists in the state working under very difficult conditions.
Shujaat Bukhari and I were colleagues at The Hindu. He was a formidable reporter, and, as editor of Rising Kashmir, a powerful voice for the embattled media fraternity, a true voice of sanity and reason. No words of condemnation are enough for the scum who have assassinated him.— Siddharth (@svaradarajan) June 14, 2018
We're deeply dismayed to hear about the killing of Shujaat Bukhari, editor of @RisingKashmir. He was a brave and outspoken voice for justice and equality in Jammu and Kashmir.— Amnesty India (@AIIndia) June 14, 2018
My friend #ShujaatBukhari was assassinated for being a voice of moderation, dialogue & reconciliation in Kashmir. His murder brings home twin truths-a wake up call on Kashmir & a reality check on the danger to journalists today. My piece in @washingtonpost https://t.co/r1zZ8ohDtg— barkha dutt (@BDUTT) June 15, 2018
On Friday, as hundreds of mourners attended the funeral of Bukhari in Srinagar, tears flowed freely like the Jhelum river, hearts bled profusely, but a few tough souls further strengthened their resolve to uphold the slain editor's "principle of telling the truth."
In its tribute for its deceased and dear editor, Rising Kashmir wrote: "You left all too sudden but you will always be our leading light with your professional conviction and exemplary courage. We won't be cowed down by the cowards who snatched you from us. We will uphold your principle of telling the truth howsoever unpleasant it may be...Rest in Peace!"
We couldn't agree more with the strong sentiments expressed by the colleagues of Bukhari. RIP Shujaat Bukhari.