India stands at the 81st rank in the global corruption perception index for 2017. The report was released by Transparency International. It is also among the worst offenders in terms of graft and press freedom in the Asia-Pacific region. We have consistently scored low in the index over the years. Hence, the link between rampant corruption and poor press freedom, further affirms the belief that the threat of consequences has rendered us catatonic as citizens. We have already accepted it as a part of our lives.
We fail to protect our press
Patricia Moreira, MD Transparency International said,
‘No activist or reporter should have to fear for their lives when speaking out against corruption. Given current crackdowns on both civil society and the media worldwide, we need to do more to protect those who speak up.’
We have indeed failed to keep our journalists’ safe. The journalism in India is strong-armed into not only being biased to various political and private sector outfits, it is forced to put a lid on investigations which can disrupt the power equation in the country. The problem, however, is not limited to the national level. Its reach is far and wide and runs deep down into the ground levels as well. Hence, when those who are to bring the truth to the public have their mouths clamped.
Oppression of any voice, only aids the corrupt ones
With the rise of social media and digital news, the journalists and social activists in our country face a new threat of internet trolls. These trolls are faceless extremist whose only job is to terrorise people into keeping quiet. The trolls may not represent the corrupt people of the country directly, but there is indeed an invisible hand, laden with moral and monetary support, which takes money from the pockets of corrupts and feeds their anger.
So the flourish of corruption is no longer about just curbing the voices of the press and social activists. It’s about threatening every singular voice which dares to ask a question.
As private citizens, all of us now have to think twice before we choose to open our mouths or crack our knuckles over the keyboard. We have to look over our shoulders and talk in hushed voices. Slowly we the common Indians will find ourselves as threatened as the journalists and activists in this country. Maybe then we will want to fight for the Freedom of Expression.
Open and engaged civil society
If we want a transparent corruption-free society, then the people of India have to encourage governing bodies to give more freedom to the press. Minimum regulations and repercussions, along with strict action against those who resort to violence against members of press, will encourage press to do their job without any fear or inhibition.
Transparency International also suggests that, ‘Civil society and governments should promote laws that focus on access to information. This access helps enhance transparency and accountability while reducing opportunities for corruption. It is important, however, for governments to not only invest in an appropriate legal framework for such laws, but also commit to their implementation.’
The key here is the implementation. This is the part where we collectively fail, as we are merely happy to have laws that guard our freedom. But no one cares to follow-up on the implementation of these laws.
It is easy to blame politicians, bureaucrats, and private sector lobbyists for rise in corruption in hushed voices. It is more difficult to stand up for those who are shot down just because they chose to speak. Unless we are willing to stand up for them, there is no point in bleating over the pathetic state of affairs.
Pic Credit: Hindustan Times
Yamini Pustake Bhalerao is a writer with the SheThePeople team, in the Opinions section. The views expressed are the author’s own