Operation Editors’ Exit: Frightening time for independent journalism in India. Blog by Rifat Jawaid

File photo: Indian Express

The decision by the publisher, Indranil Roy, comes only days after the magazine carried an expose on RSS and its alleged role in trafficking tribal girls to convert them to Hinduism.


Roy’s ‘all staff’ email read, “Dear all, This is to inform you that Mr Rajesh Ramachandarn is appointed as the Editor-in-Chief of Outlook magazine with effect from 16th August 2016. I request all of you to please welcome Rajesh and extend your full support. We wish you all the very best.”

This sudden removal of the senior most editorial figure of a popular national news magazine gave rise to speculation that Prasad had essentially been punished for carrying an incredibly damaging expose against the RSS. However, the flag-bearers of the central government were quick to dismiss the assertion that Prasad’s removal was linked to the Operation Baby Lift, which had prompted the RSS to file an FIR against the magazine and and its journalists.

Prasad’s departure has caused considerable social media outrage with many condemning the Centre’s Narendra Modi government for stifling the free press for not falling in line with its ideology.

Modi and his party were blamed for arm-twisting the media house owners just before the Lok Sabha elections to sack senior journalists, perceived to be detrimental to the right-wing propoganda carried out by the saffron party.

Secular journalists soon began to ‘resign’ from their posts Not many, however, cared to explore the real story behind these so-called ‘resignations,’ which was essentially a dignified way of describing the sacking.

While some owners happily crawled even when they were asked to merely bend, others acted of their volition out of ideological similarities with the right-wing Hindutva groups.

And the practice of ‘punishing’ liberal journalists has continued with impunity since  the Modi government came to power in May 2014.

Worried over losing revenue from government ads and unaccounted money particularly during the election campaign, the channel owners find the proposition of sacking their senior journalists quite agreeable. It’s often senior journalists, capable of influencing the editorial decisions of channels or publications, who fall prey to what’s now become a rampant practice of forced resignations.

In most cases, many senior journalists, with decades of experience and impeccable credentials, have found it difficult to re-employ themselves because media houses appear keen to steer clear of any confrontation with the current government in Delhi. The Modi government, according to many analysts, is being seen as quite brutal in dealing with journalists, who refuse to fall in line.

A journalist working for a leading channel told www.jantakareporter.com that while liberal journalists faced imminent wrath from the media owners, the journalists with right-wing views were flourishing under the current regime.

Requesting anonymity, the journalist said, “You just have to look at the hate-filled tweets being posted by journalists working for certain channels. Just imagine if the same tweets being posted by a left leaning journalists. The channel wouldn’t hesitate for a second to show him/her the door. And if you have a Muslim name, then you would also be declared a Jihadi, ISIS agent and supporters of Pakistan.”

As expected, the latest episode of alleged sacking of a senior journalist prompted many to vent out their anger on social media. The dominant theme of the social media conversation was that Prasad was clearly being punished for portraying the RSS in a negative light. Others likened the developed to ‘fascism’ being unleashed by the BJP government at the Centre.

Sagarika Ghose, who too had to resign with her journalist husband, Rajdeep Sardesai, when Mukesh Ambani gained complete control of Network 18 in 2014, wrote, “I too resigned from a news network I helped to create. Solidarity with Krishna Prasad. Wishing my friend Krishna Prasad the best. Know what it feels like to resign in face of some very sinister forces. Any journalist today who’s been sacked or has resigned should hold this as a badge of honour. Let the toadies crawl before the powerful.”

No wonder that India has now become one of the deadliest countries for independent journalists to work in. All thanks to the change the country’s 30 percent electorates brought about expecting achche din in May 2014.

A journalist working for a news magazine said sarcastically, “We are grateful that journalists are only losing their jobs. At least they are not losing lives.”

What that journalist didn’t perhaps realise is that journalists are already also being systematically eliminated for showing courage against the powerful politicians. Sadly, they just become another statistic amidst the utter madness.

Here are some social media reactions;