The Listening Post

Patriot or traitor: Dark choice for Indian journalists

We look at a sedition case that has sparked violence against the media; plus, Donald Trump, speaking the unspeakable.

In the latest battle over freedom of expression in India, journalists have marched on the country’s Supreme Court for protection from violent nationalist groups backing Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government.

Some 800 journalists presented a petition to the Supreme Court in New Delhi this week demanding protection as well as an investigation into recent attacks against reporters. 

The protest rally came after Kanhaiya Kumar, a PhD student at the Jawaharlal Nehru University, was arrested on sedition charges for organising a rally marking the anniversary of the execution of a Muslim Kashmiri leader.

A student faction linked to Modi’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) accused Kumar of using anti-Indian slogans during the demonstration.

Journalists reporting the court case were called “traitors” and “terrorists” while being attacked in broad daylight despite the presence of police forces throughout the complex.

In what many journalists and writers see as an increasing climate of oppression, news outlets in the world’s largest democracy are struggling to find a way to cover stories that touch on the nationalism movement and those who oppose it.

Talking us through the story are Rajdeep Sardesai, consulting editor at India Today Group; Sudhir Chaudhary, editor at Zee News; Hartosh Singh Bal, political editor at Caravan Magazine; and Madhu Kishwar, the author of Modi, Muslims and Media.

Other media stories on our radar this week: exiled Syrian journalist Rami Jarrah has been arrested in Turkey while applying for a residence permit; a Palestinian journalist imprisoned by the Israeli authorities is now reported to be more than 85 days into a hunger strike – and his lawyer says he is on the verge of death; cameraman Ahmed al-Shaibani has been killed in Yemen while covering fighting between Houthi forces and the Yemeni Popular Resistance.   

Breaking the Taboo: Trumping the US mainstream media 

Often, it takes an outsider such as Donald Trump to break a taboo, to go where establishment figures – insiders from the worlds of politics and the media – refuse to go. 

In the Republican debate in South Carolina last weekend, Trump declared live that the Bush administration, and therefore by association the president himself, deliberately lied to the American people about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

For the past 15 years, politicians and journalists have been critical of the Iraq war but they have almost never accused President Bush of starting a war based on lies. That, essentially, is what a leading republican candidate did, saying something that not even the so-called liberal media in the US dare to say.

The Listening Post’s Richard Gizbert reports.

Finally, in the US televised election debates, candidates trade blows over policy, they differ on substance and in style, but one topic where they tend to find common ground is the news media and its presumed bias. We collected a few moments of debated media bashing, and we bet we will see plenty more between now and November.