Even in his short tenure as President, Mr. Trump has had a long list of monotonous complaints about those in the media who criticized him and his policies. He's ridiculed and berated them publicly. All that is part of the Trumplore of recent American media. One of his celebrated lines is the 'failing New York Times,' which apparently has helped augment circulation at the paper rather than hamper it!
Press intimidation and suppression is almost as old as traditional news reporting itself. In recent years however, with the proliferation of fake news, instead of making it easier to nab the bad guys, it's given the feckless, better tools to perpetrate confusion through the rampant spread of doubt laden news stories, willingly championed by armies of internet trolls.
In Russia, Putin has indulged in slick maneuvering to get rid of press persons who've dared to criticize him. In 2006, Anna Politkovskaya, a Russian journalist, writer and human rights activist was murdered in her apartment building's elevator in what a classic Kremlin style killing. Even in Putin's Russia, someone was scapegoated and brought to 'justice' in 2014. No one still knows who hired those henchmen. There was some semblance of an inquiry, followed by an arrest. After eight long years and a lot of shenanigans strung together, five men received a prison sentence for Politkovskaya's murder. Even so, the real perpetrators remain undiscovered and therefore, unpunished. Why did it take so long to find Anna Politkovskaya's killers? And who ended up getting punished? The judge in his ruling said that she was killed for her work “exposing human rights violations, embezzlement and abuse of power”.
Question is, is there a judge in India who will say that Gauri Lankesh was killed because of her forthright journalism about fundamentalist forces in India? That is assuming an inquiry will lead to the arrest and imprisonment of her killers. If the the powers that be can suppress journalistic freedoms to the extent that the opposition parties are neutered and unable to express their outrage at this killing, there is more reason for despair for democracy as a whole and not just a sad lament of the tragic murder of a fearless woman.
RSF, Reporters Sans Frontiers, Reporters Without Borders, inspired no doubt by the highly dedicated and praise worthy Medicins Sans Frontier, MSF or Doctors Without Borders, has a barometer of press freedoms on its website. India's race to the bottom is surely on track. In this current environment of fear and intimidation that has become the hallmark of our national politics, India may lose its standing on RSF's website, https://rsf.org/en/ranking dropping further from an already abysmal 136th place, three places above Pakistan, and several spots below, yes below, Morocco/Western Sahara, Cameroon, Cambodia, etc.
Save for a few well known actors turned activists, Bollywood has remained embarrassingly silent. Hollywood may not have a whole lot worth emulating but at least it's never been shy of ridiculing extremist views and the people spewing them. Bollywood's coy stance is not just a disappointment, it's an outright betrayal of the adulation that fans shower on their stars. Public personalities collude with thugs and murderers if they are unwilling to condemn them.
With the death of veteran journalist Lankesh in Bengaluru, India is taking a page out of Putin's playbook. The current silence from the rank and file of the national political spectrum doesn't bode well for the law and order and legal system in the country. In fact, it speaks volumes to the degradation of democratic freedoms enshrined in our very ethos that paved the way to our craving for freedom from an 'oppressive'England in 1947. How long before we rise up again in mass revolt against the shackles being placed on fundamental self expression?
Founder, AbleCloth LLC