Journalists in India are under threat more so the female journalists who are rampantly targeted on various social media sites. Online abuse, threats, trolls, WhatsApp messages and at times, even offline intimidation – it is continuous harassment for some of the country’s most outspoken scribes. Worse, it’s gendered and reeks of misogyny.
Author and columnist Bachi Karkaria says all objective journalists were increasingly vulnerable, and women were doubly disadvantaged here as in much else. “Intolerance has become endemic because the PM’s silence is taken as consent. But if media isn’t allowed to hold up an honest mirror, all that has been painstakingly built up these 71 years will shatter,” she tells SheThePeople.TV.
Are women soft targets? Why must women have to pay a price for speaking up? Nishtha Satyam, Deputy Country Representative, UN Women India says “The Freedom of the Press is fundamental to a thriving and fully functional democracy. Women or men shouldn’t have to bear a price for speaking up as journalists. It must not be an act of bravery for women journalists to speak the truth and represent facts.” She adds, the harassment, threats that women journalists face, including character assassination, is real, unacceptable, outdated and passé. Safety of women journalists is a prerequisite to ensuring a plural and free media and polity.
Recently, in a slew of cases, many women journalists have faced threats across the online world. NDTV’s Nidhi Razdan took to Twitter recently to say she received a death threat.
I got a death threat on @instagram via a pvt msg: “I will hang you,I will execute you”. I reported the account to @instagram. They replied that it does not violate their guidelines. Shame on you @instagram. Am deleting my account. And yes, I’m filing an FIR
— Nidhi Razdan (@Nidhi) June 10, 2018
She later tweeted that Facebook contacted her saying that the account has been suspended and all details will be handed over to the police.
Update: got a call from Facebook, the said account has been suspended, all details will be handed over to the police. Appreciate that FB admitted the response by Instagram was an error. Hope this is now followed through by the police @facebook @instagram https://t.co/4LuqNJOoac
— Nidhi Razdan (@Nidhi) June 11, 2018
Nidhi spoke to SheThePeople.Tv and said it was imperative that both police and social media platforms take online threats more seriously.
“My biggest grouse is with the social media platforms first: for example, WHY does Facebook allow ANYONE to message you? Even those who aren’t your friends. Even though it pops up in another inbox, it DOES pop up and then you have decide whether to accept or decline it. But because people know you’ll get their message, they send obscenities and threats because they can. If my FB account is private, then let it stay private.”
On 5th September 2017 Gauri Lankesh, a senior journalist and activist was murdered outside of her residence in Rajarajeshwari Nagar, Bengaluru. She was the editor of the weekly Gauri ‘Lankesh Patrike,’ a Kannada newspaper. The murder was preceded by both online and offline threats she had been receiving for a while. Her murder witnessed an outpouring of anger among the media and citizens who said that it was an attempt to silence democracy.
Following her death, there was a Facebook post that called Sagarika Ghose, Arundhati Roy, Shobha De, Kavita Krishnan and Shehla Rashid as “anti-national” and that they should be assassinated like Gauri Lankesh. The Delhi Police registered a case against the Facebook user after Sagarika Ghose complained against him.
— Sagarika Ghose (@sagarikaghose) September 6, 2017
Received chilling veiled threats and "messages" from powerful people in the Establishment today that my family and I are under surveillance – and that I will be smeared & maligned to stop me from starting any new projects. Was advised to get my house debugged. Is this my country?
— barkha dutt (@BDUTT) June 7, 2018
India ranks 138 on the World Press Freedom Index
It has also become increasingly common for female journalists to be threatened for voicing their opinions. Last year, Dhanya Rajendran, who is based in Bangalore and the co-Founder of News Minute, faced online abuse from Vijay’s fans on Twitter for putting out a negative remark about his film ‘Sura’.
After watching Shah Rukh Khan’s latest release “When Harry Met Sejal“, Dhanya tweeted that it was “worse” than Vijay’s Sura released seven years ago, then she had managed to stay at least till the interval.
A hashtag (#PublicityBeepDhanya) was created and used in more than 30,000 tweets. In fact, it ended up becoming a trend on Twitter for some time. Four persons were charged for their threats and abuse on Twitter targeting the journalist. The police booked a case under the IT Act and the Indecent Representation of Women Act among others.
So yesterday, according to trendsmaps, there were 31,000 tweets on that hashtag on me and 30,000 mentions (with or without hashtags).
— Dhanya Rajendran (@dhanyarajendran) August 7, 2017