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India’s Fourth Estate Is Now A Killing Field

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Bengaluru: Senior Kannada journalist and social activist Gauri Lankesh was shot dead by unidentified men at her residence in Bengaluru on Sept 5, 2017. She was shot dead from close range when she was standing at the gate of her house in Rajarajeswari Naga by .
Senior Kannada journalist and social activist Gauri Lankesh (File Photo: IANS)

The good, the bad and the ugly inhabit the once honourable profession. But the good far outweighs the bad and the ugly and no democracy can survive if the media is fettered….writes Bikram Vohra

Bengaluru: People stage protest against senior journalist and activist Gauri Lankesh's murder in Bengaluru on Sept 6, 2017. Editor of the weekly Kannada tabloid "Lankesh Patrika", Lankesh was shot dead by unidentified men at her residence on Sept 5, 2017. (Photo: IANS) by .
People stage protest against senior journalist and activist Gauri Lankesh’s murder in Bengaluru (Photo: IANS)

Outrage is like a bullet. It is finally spent and only the casing remains. The tidal wave of shock and anger following this coldblooded killing of Gauri Lankesh will dissipate. The horror of it all has been global in its reach and spanned every emotion from outright anger to hurt to compassion to condemnation to her ex-husband Chidanand Rasjagatta writing a bittersweet eulogy that was gut wrenching.

In all the many hues of writing we see one major factor has been largely ignored because it is extremely uncomfortable to grasp what is a very prickly nettle. The question on every journalist’s mind is this: is there a big fat bulls eye painted on the fourth estate?

And the question is answered in the affirmative. Till now India’s position as number three worldwide for the murders of media reps was largely a problem limited to small publications usually derided by the mainstream anglo-saxon big brothers as mofussil or vernac and one of those that things that happens.

This crime is something else. This is too close to home and the fact that it is accompanied by the shooting of another journalist in Bihar a day later makes it nerve-wracking.

In these seventy years not since Indira Gandhi shut the media up during the Emergency and the top echelons were ordered to write for the Gandhi magazine Surya have journalists been so bewildered and vulnerable.

We can intellectualise as much as we like and damn all those we want for turning journalism into a circus or worse, a crusade and we can score brownie points by flinging resignations at ‘rogue’ TV channels but all this is extraneous and utterly pointless. The fact is we are no longer a united entity. Which is why it is not only the fresh contempt in the public for us (Haryana’s havoc was a perfect example of deep seated hatred for media) and while we might blame raucous TV anchors and those ghastly noise pollution debates in every language for the deterioration and trivialization of the profession, much of the sentiment is fed by self-loathing. We have lost our mojo and our togetherness.

Bengaluru: Senior Kannada journalist and social activist Gauri Lankesh was shot dead by unidentified men at her residence in Bengaluru on Sept 5, 2017. She was shot dead from close range when she was standing at the gate of her house in Rajarajeswari Naga by .
Senior Kannada journalist and social activist Gauri Lankesh (File Photo: IANS)

This is why it is so easy to kill our kin. And why this shooting is a watershed for the fourth estate. If they do not find the killer and the motive and the money behind it and follow that lead to the main brain the message will go out from this time and place that media is fair game, you can murder them and walk away for there will be protection.

The good, the bad and the ugly inhabit the once honourable profession. But the good far outweighs the bad and the ugly and no democracy can survive if the media is fettered.

This is an imperative and the pressure on the authorities should be relentless until the nation knows how and why. And who.

For that reason and that reason alone the mystery of this killing has to solved regardless of where the trail takes our country and who is indicted, be it a industrial house, a political party or a hired gun who sings like a canary.

We need to know not just for the sake of justice and closure but for the future of the free press which has, this week, been put to the sword.
If this turns into a cold case and the frailty of the public memory manifests itself then it is a safe bet it will happen again.
Letting it be and moving on is a luxury India cannot afford. It is here that journalists must speak with one voice or cower in cowardice for all their tomorrows.

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