The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) report says that the world has become a deadlier place for journalists as in the year 2022, 67 individuals were killed while working, compared to the previous year 2021. The report from IFJ was issued ahead of the International Human Rights Day, renewing its calls for a “Convention on the Safety and Independence of Journalists” to be voted on by the UN General Assembly.
“The number of journalists detained for performing their jobs makes a mockery of the lofty claims on human rights and media freedom made by too many governments and trumpeted at international conferences.”Anthony Bellanger, IFJ General Secretary
The research on the reflection of the Russian invasion and Ukraine war says that Ukraine became a dangerous place accounting for the death of 12 of the total number of reporters and media staff.
As per the report, countries like Mexico, Philippines, and Pakistan are identified as areas where journalist killings have challenged media freedom.
The study also emphasised the shooting of Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh in broad daylight by Israeli troops, noting that the number of journalists slain in the Middle East grew from three to five this year. The Arab network also formally asked the International Criminal Court to investigate her death.
Not just killing, the number of media people in detention has also grown this year. The International Federation of Journalists, located in Brussels, also said that 375 journalists are now imprisoned for their job, with the biggest number in China, including Hong Kong, Myanmar, and Turkey. According to the study, 365 journalists were imprisoned last year.
“These data make for depressing reading and raise major concerns on governments’ political commitment to confront such grave challenges to media freedom,” IFJ General Secretary Anthony Bellanger said in a statement.
“The number of journalists detained for performing their jobs makes a mockery of the lofty claims on human rights and media freedom made by too many governments and trumpeted at international conferences,” further mentioned.
In India, the names of journalists that were on news headlines who were killed or detained are many.
Siddique Kappan, a journalist hailing from Kerala was imprisoned in October 2020 on his way to Hathras, Uttar Pradesh, while reporting a story about a Dalit girl who was gang raped. He was accused of having links to the Popular Front of India and of being involved in a scheme to provoke violence. The Uttar Pradesh Police arrested him under several provisions of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, and the Information Technology (IT) Act.
According to the news reports, though he got bail a couple of months before, the ED launched a money laundering inquiry against him and will continue to remain in jail, as a case being probed by the Enforcement Directorate against him is still pending, said the officials of the prison department.
Altnews co-founder, Mohammed Zubair was arrested around June, 2022, following a complaint from a social media user who pointed to a tweet from 2018, a cyber unit of Delhi Police detained Mohammed Zubair, the co-founder of the fact-checking website AltNews, on charges of allegedly hurting religious emotions.
Reports says, Police detained him after receiving a Twitter complaint from an account with the handle @balajikijaiin and the name “Hanuman Bhakt” over Zubair’s 2018 post of a still from the 1983 film Kisi Se Na Kehna. Following this, he received a slew of complaints for calling out those who were making hate statements.
Steven Butler, CPJ’s Asia program coordinator, in Washington, D.C said to the CPJ that, “The arrest of journalist Mohammad Zubair marks another low for press freedom in India, where the government has created a hostile and unsafe environment for members of the press reporting on sectarian issues.” “Authorities must immediately and unconditionally release Zubair, and allow him to pursue his journalistic work without further interference,” he added.
Editors Guild of India, seeking his immediate release, also mentioned that it was clear that those who use misinformation as a tactic to polarise society and rake up nationalist feelings hated Zubair’s alert vigilance.
Recently, the Pulitzer award winner and journalist, Sanna Irshad Matto was stopped from leaving India to receive the award in the ceremony conducted in New York despite having a Visa ticket. “I was on my way to receive the Pulitzer award in New York, but I was stopped at immigration at Delhi airport and barred from traveling internationally despite holding a valid U.S. visa and ticket,” Matto’s tweet reads.
Around march, 2022, journalist Rana Ayyub was detained at Mumbai airport as she prepared to board a trip to the United Kingdom to make a speech at the International Centre for Journalists. She was allowed to travel a few days later after she won an appeal against the decision. This had happened to many other media people like Angad Singh, an Emmy-nominated American journalist of Indian ancestry, who reportedly returned to New York shortly after arriving in Delhi in August.
On World Press Freedom Day, ten human rights organisations stated that Indian authorities were increasingly targeting journalists and internet critics for their criticism of government policies and practises, including- pursuing individuals under counter-terrorism and sedition legislation, said another report.
On September 15, in a campus, a political play happened, regarding the present state of journalism in India, in which names of Zubair, Siddique Kappan, and others were highlighted. It was mentioned in the report how these names were unfamiliar to aspiring journalists. It further said, “when you start digging into the reasons for this, no one talks about them, there is no major media coverage on these cases. Let me tell you what will happen if journalism dies: democracy will not survive; no democracy means no fundamental rights; no independence means a return to the pre-1947 era; however, in this case, we will not need a foreign invasion to enslave our country; we will do that so ourselves.”
Over 1200 journalists were slain globally between 2006 and 2020, according to UNICEF, with 9 out of 10 instances still unexplained.
In the month of April, former Amnesty India chief Aakar Patel was stopped twice from boarding a flight to the US in the Bangalore airport. Regarding the arrest of Altnews co-founder, he said, “The Indian authorities are targeting Mohammed Zubair for his critical work against the growth in false news and disinformation and pointing out prejudice against minorities”. As he stated, “Does these arrest highlights how the danger facing human rights defenders in India has reached crisis point? And how long is this going to prevail?” It is still a question mark that is yet to be resolved in this context.
Fighting constantly for the lives of journalists to prevail the democracy in India is a tough battle now. Journalists and media outlets are intended to represent our viewpoint, and anyone who criticises them is implicitly criticising the general people.