Friday, 17 June 2011

Too Special By Far

 Journalists in Mumbai have stepped up pressure for a law to make attacks on them non-bailable and cognisable. This has come in the wake of the tragic killing of investigative journalist J Dey last week. Apparently this demand is a long-standing one. First the Maharashtra government had a meeting with journalists on this. Now the Union law and justice minister Veerappa Moily is promising a Central law on the subject.
This is absolutely uncalled for.
Dey's killing is extremely sad and brings home to a lot of us the perils we face while going about our jobs. Ours can be a hazardous profession and this article highlights this. In some north-eastern states and Jammu and Kashmir, journalists are routinely threatened by militant groups. I was in Ayodhya in 1992 during the Babri Masjid demolition and journalists were attacked.
But is a special law to protect journalists the answer? Definitely not.
Ours is not an ordinary profession. Journalists relay information to people and in doing so are privy to a lot of information that is not in the public domain. Their reports highlight problems, expose corruption and other misdeeds and help shape public opinion, among other things. That gives them power and prestige but also makes them vulnerable.
There are other professions whose practitioners also face hazards. Doctors, for example, do get attacked by relatives of patients whom they couldn't save. They also go into remote areas where their lives are endangered. So are engineers engaged in the construction of large projects like dams and power plants who could be attacked by people opposed to the project. Remember the case of Satyendra Dubey, the National Highways Authority of India engineer who was killed for fighting against corruption in the Golden Quadrilateral highway project? Or Manjunath, the Indian Oil sales manager, and Yashwant Sonawane, the IAS officer from Maharashtra, both of whom were killed by the oil mafia when they were checking adulteration of fuel?
Why shouldn't all these professions also get special laws against attacks on them?
And, like the Indian Express pointed out today, if special groups are to get special laws to protect them, does this mean that it is okay for all the others to have to make do with less stringent laws? The state is supposed to protect everyone from attacks on their person.
Journalists have got too accustomed to special privileges - government accreditation to allow them easy access to government offices and Press stickers for their vehicles to enable them to go to places in the course of their duty where others are not allowed (e.g. riot-hit areas, areas under curfew), to name just two.
Asking now for a special law to protect them is carrying things a bit too far.
The proposal needs to be nipped in the bud.

5 comments:

  1. many have been feeling this in Bombay. The JDey murder has come in handy for a lot of highly politically connected journalistic elements who are using it for either a political or personal agenda.

    Moily has needlessly stepped in; the local government was handling it well and chavan had said no firmly.

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  2. Dey was among the genuine reporters; there are several who deserve to be beaten up for the way they misuse their privileges and the kind of 'service' they do.

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  3. I agree with the thrust of the post, but must add that Dubey was killed by highway robbers, not the corrupt guys he exposed. Thanks.

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  4. Journalism is a social job. There job influences socital opinion about things, unlike a state doctor or engineer who just do their job. I am an engineer and i know that v need no special priveledges because working in a dangerous area is another job for us. Journalists on the other hand are very vulnerable. For them working in dangerous environment is itself a job. The need special protection and privileges. The privileges which you mentioned are not asked by reporters, but are given in order to cover a news story. Plz understand that unlike other professions media is the fourth pillar of democrcay and FREE PRESS needs to be protected in order to enable proper functioning of democrcay and encourage feraless journalism rather than cowardism.

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  5. Journalists need to be protected as they are easy targets of criminals. Just look at the pressure the media is putting on the 2G scam and Adarsh case. This is why media is important. If there is no media, these cases would have shut up easily and the culprits like A Raja would have been scot-free. So to expose such things through their writings and daredevil, they need to be protected. And if one journalist is bad, then you can make it a generalised statement. So we need to understand the meaning of the democracy.....

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