THE CITIZEN EDITORIAL | 9 SEPTEMBER, 2017
THE CITIZEN EDITORIAL
Women journalists have been at the receiving end of filthy abuse and threats from the troll army on the social media, all of them claiming to be supporters of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Bharatiya Janata Party. Journalists are targeted for little more than questioning the government, the PM or other functionaries of the BJP and the RSS with the threats severe, and the abuse crossing all boundaries.
Women scribes, however, face it worse as the threat is accompanied with sexual threats, and language that should be sufficient for any decent, law abiding government to ensure their arrest. Most of what the women scribes receive is unpublishable, and this is retweeted by scores of trolls to ensure that the journalist feels vulnerable, isolated and they hope terrified. Television anchors being more recognisable faces bear the brunt but senior women journalists in print and online are targeted as frequently and as viciously.
The latest is a filthy abusive tweet directed at senior scribe Sagarika Ghose, inciting violence against her after the murder of journalist Gauri Lankesh, The Indian Women’s Press Corps has issued a statement expressing “deep concern”, and condemning “the language inciting violence directed at women media-persons in the social media” The statement notes, “there have been social media posts where women have been threatened with sexual assault as well. Such misogynistic behavior is deeply deplorable in a democratic society as ours.”
The Delhi Police has registered a FIR against the individual. But the language used by the IWPC is tame in merely asking the Union Home Ministry to “be extra vigilant about these threats so that all women including women journalists, are able to think, work and express themselves in a fair and free atmosphere without any threat to their person.” Given the fact that this threat is vicious, and the social media trolls ---such as the man who abused dead journalist Lankesh, are being followed by PM Modi, the IWPC could have been expected to address the PMO, and demand immediate arrest of these men. After all young girls and students have been arrested in different parts of the country for merely expressing an opinion mildly critical of the current dispensation.
The Press Club of India and the Editors Guild, of course, have still to respond. It must be pointed out that Lankesh too had been receiving threats and abuse from right wing trolls before she was shot dead outside her home in Bangalore. This cannot be taken lightly, and a mere FIR with the Delhi police is barely a protection for journalists doing their job. The Prime Minister himself must give an assurance that such abuse and threats will be dealt with strictly, and instruct the Home Minister and the Police Commissioner to ensure immediate action.
Journalists need to come out of their comfort zone, recognise the growing threat, and ensure some levels of security for the individuals. Not everyone is being targeted, but it is imperative that the everyone come together to support the some who are receiving the vilest threats---from rape to elimination.
The questions the government and the Prime Minister needs to answer: who are these trolls? Why are they being followed by him and senior Ministers thereby giving their abusive tweets legitimacy? Are the threats to Ghose and other women journalists the new acceptable norm for the government? If not, what is the government planning to do to check this trend? What are the steps being taken to ensure the safety of journalists, and more so women journalists, just doing their job?