At a time when space for quality journalism seems to be shrinking, there are journalists who still stick to their jobs by reporting and commenting on every development that undermines democracy and the rule of law. Today, attacks on investigative journalism come from all quarters and range from physical assaults to arm-twisting through legal means.
The latest report released by the organisation ‘Reporters Without Borders’ lists India among the top three most dangerous countries for journalists. India has been named “Asia’s deadliest country for media personnel, ahead of both Pakistan and Afghanistan”.
In the last few years, there has been a rising trend of coercing journalists into silence through measures that are known as strategic lawsuits against public participation, SLAPPs for short. Since 1950s large corporate conglomerates have been intolerant of dissenting voices.
‘Sue the Messenger’ written by Subir Ghosh and Paranjoy Guha Thakurta is a collection of stories about stories — stories that run foul of corporate entities and conglomerates, which result in SLAPPs. By their very nature, SLAPPs are meant to undermine democracy. This is the concern that the book ‘Sue the Messenger’ wishes to address.
The stories are built on around 10-15 cases. More often than not, it is one individual fighting against a conglomerate in these legal battles and it’s evidently observed that the weaker party is picked up in the legal attack.
In Paranjoy Guha Thakurta’s words, “Journalists as a tribe need to do more– more than expressing solidarity behind others. Media in India is vast and corporates play the role of big advertisers on whom the media depends largely. This makes it much easier for them to stifle the dissenting voices.’
So what is the way forward?
Outside the legal domain, the way forward would be to ensure solidarity among journalists and fraternity safeguarding public interest.
Watch the authors of ‘Sue The Messenger’, Subir Ghosh and Paranjoy Guha Thakurta discuss their book with Govindraj Ethiraj.