One of the foundational pillars of a democracy is media. This is not just some saying that carries a sanctimonious value; it’s an important essence that must be respected and upheld. But here in India, it appears that if there’s a profession that’s been constantly sullied, abused and subjected to vile terminologies (and for quite a few years), then it’s the field of journalism. Yet, the true journalist remains unsullied and unaffected by all the hype and drama around him and hits the ground, engaging in true reportage for he knows that the world will carry less meaning if facts aren’t reported or if actual news doesn’t reach the concerned, law-abiding citizen of the country.
But in some ways, it can be said that in a country where there are perhaps countless news channels all of which are depicting the events related to COVID 19’s newest wave, troubling and harrowing that it is, there’s hardly a day where journalists aren’t getting abused. And it may not be wrong to suggest, especially those who happen to write for foreign publications.
And if you happen to closely observe the prime reason for which journalists in India are being abused and called names then it may bother you. None other than Barkha Dutt, one of the widely-established forces in the field of journalism recently took to Twitter and said, “Old troll trick to attack the messenger won’t work. Save your breath!”
So what had happened and why did an eminent journalist have to give a fitting reply to the detractors?
The events date back to April 22, 2021 when Reuters’ Danish Siddiqui happened to share some heartbreaking pictures of a funeral. What was happening was that the COVID 19 victims’ bodies were being laid to rest.
That done, he took to social media and shared the following note:
“As India posted world record of COVID cases funeral pyres of people, who died due to the coronavirus disease were pictured at a crematorium ground in New Delhi, April 22, 2021!”
Now as a matter of fact, several funeral grounds across the country have admitted that they are overburdened by the number of bodies that have been put to risk, stating in no uncertain terms that the number of bodies to be cremated are far more than the space available for funerals.
But no sooner did Danish share pictures and an accompanying note of the development than the right wing social media users began condemning the journalists for doing what they actually were- doing their job, nothing else!
In what appeared to be clearly an orchestrated move, these right wingers active on social media began hurling abuses to journalists for showing cremated bodies, which, as a matter of fact, was simply their part of job; to show the true picture of just how harrowing and troubling the new COVID 19 wave is in India.
Here’s what the News Minute had to report on the story:
In a move that seems to be aimed at ensuring that these disturbing pictures don’t come out, they are claiming that ‘foreign journalists’ are only concentrating on burning pyres, but are not showing burials of victims belonging to other religions.
But the matter further escalated with some noted journalists questioning whether it was ‘necessary’ to report from a funeral ground?
And soon, a matter of actual journalism receded into being a polarising online discussion with several journalists supporting the act of Danish’ reporting stating facts like in New York, several bodies of COVID 19 victims were covered by the liberal governor and had been stuffed in trucks (and yet, fingers point to the work of journalists in India)!
Another Twitter user stood in staunch defence of the journalist stating, “They don’t have a problem with the dead being cremated, day and night, on pavements and parking lots. They have a problem with journalists reporting on the dead.”
So all of that said, what would you, the reader, reckon on this situation. Was the journalist simply doing his job or deliberately inciting the public by covering the funerals. In fact, was this even a matter to create a controversy around?