This blog has been written by Umaima Ahmed, Member of DRF’s Network of Women Journalists for Digital Rights.
In today’s testing times Journalism has taken on the façade of a daredevil occupation. There was a time not in the too distant past when it was said that the Pen is Mightier than the Sword, however this does not seem to be so anymore.
The Hollywood movie Spotlight (2015) revolved around investigative journalism and the kind of pressure journalist’s face while digging up stories about subjects that go against some institutions. The movie was based on the investigation into a case of sexual abuse in the USA by priests. Spotlight truly depicted the affairs in the field of investigative journalism in the current times.
Journalists are supposed to be the voice of the people; they fill the gap between the masses and the institutions and bring out the issues and their effect on all concerned. However, unfortunately they sometimes become a victim of their own profession with many having been killed for being at the right place at the wrong time while covering a story.
Every journalist does not cover an actual war zone and face danger every day; many a times even those in non-conflict areas are murdered, abducted, harassed, intimidated, illegally arrested and raped, or they face threats or undergo arbitrary detention; which they have to face in the line of their work by mafias, organized crime groups, militia, security personnel, and sometimes even the police make life difficult for them.
According to the 2018 Report by The Committee to Protect Journalists, 54 journalists were killed globally, of whom 13 lost their lives in Afghanistan alone, which is the highest number for the year. As we look at 2019, in the first five months five journalists have been killed; sadly death is not the only danger faced by journalists, some face imprisonment, at times go missing, have been deported and black listed.
A journalist working on a story lead should ensure that story is free of bias, cover all angles and have clarity. The piece should be well investigated should stand to scrutiny of the 5Ws ( who, why, what, when, where) and an H (how). However, the danger of the effort costs them a lot while they try to gather pieces to fill the gaps in the news piece.
Even though the media is known to be the fourth pillar of the state, in many places we can see a pattern where the pillar is slowly being demolished or pushed in the corner. Journalists are working under duress globally; their lives and the lives of their family in some cases are at stake; they work under great pressure and have to face legal issues as well as threats from unknown entities, for filing stories that do not favor the story’s subject.
Social media has also become a journalistic battle field; some have been physically attacked, received death and even rape threats. Female journalists are targeted more on the digital plaforms as compared to men as unfortunately patriarchy rules in many societies in the world, and women voicing their opinions are not welcome into mainstream media.
The state’s responsibility to provide security to its citizenry and those bridging the gap between the masses and the state cannot be ignored by any player; Journalists are like soldiers who work day and night to keep the wheels of information turning, and provision of a level playing field is not only media houses but also the government’s responsibility!