As citizens of a free nation and as journalists, we are keenly aware that an independent media is among the pillars of a vibrant democracy. For India to progress, we must move forward in the direction of more democracy, not less. Bans on news organisations are a big, dangerous step backward. Attempts to muzzle the free press must be resisted—we owe it to our fellow citizens.
Over the last few years, media gags in Chhattisgarh, Kashmir, Assam and Kerala have been ignored or reduced to footnotes. This may have encouraged the authorities to clamp down on more media organisations. We in the news media must acknowledge our complacency in not having spoken up at each instance. We would like to correct that now, as good a time as any, especially since the government has taken notice of the conversation around bans on news media organisatons and made some statements in that context.
We do acknowledge the statements in support of “liberal democratic ethos and principles” and freedom of expression by those in the government. However the power to gag or ban a news media outlet is intact and the government’s ability and willingness to use it is intact too.
The news media are a vital line of defence with regard to the invaluable right to expression, speech, information and dissent. Actions and utterances that endorse attempts to crush these rights, bit by bit--a newspaper here, a television channel there unless they toe the line--will lead us to the precipice.
Enough is enough. We have to raise our voice against these pernicious practices collectively. We--BOOM News, Cobrapost, IndiaSpend, Janta Ka Reporter, Narada News, Newslaundry, Scroll.in, Southlive Network, The Hoot, The Quint, The News Minute and The Wire and thousands of journalists all over the country--stand united in support of freedom of the press. We hope you will join us to support democracy. #StopMediaBans