Ravish Kumar’s SOS to citizens: Take up journalism in testing times

Delivering his speech, senior journalist Ravish Kumar said, 'The soul of democracy is under relentless attack every day.' Photo: PTI FIle.

Indian winner of the Ramon Magsaysay Award and news anchor Ravish Kumar asked citizens to take on the role of media, saying citizen journalism was the need of the hour when mainstream media was turning hostile.

Delivering his speech after receiving the award in Manila, Philippines on Friday, the NDTV India managing editor said, “The soul of democracy is under relentless attack every day.”

Awarded for harnessing journalism to give voice to the voiceless and for committing himself to ethical and professional journalism of the highest standard, Ravish Kumar started his speech mentioning India’s historic ‘Chandrayaan-2’ mission to the moon.

“I am looking at the moon and at the ground beneath my feet simultaneously. My streets have craters and potholes which outnumber the moon,” he said in his typical anecdotal style.

Highlighting the condition of people in Kashmir and Hong Kong where people are fighting for their rights, he said, “The citizens of Hong Kong have challenged the government’s effort to render citizenship hollow by refashioning objects of control into devices of liberation. The citizens of Hong Kong were willing and able to extricate themselves from the authoritarian network of information. This tells us that the state has not yet defeated citizenship.”

Questioning the month-long communication blackout in Kashmir and media’s support to the government’s move, he said by cutting off communication, media stood against the citizens.

“An information and communication blackout has been imposed for several weeks in Kashmir. More than 10 million people are cut off from any information trade whatsoever. There was an internet shutdown. Mobiles were rendered useless. Can you imagine a citizen without information? What happens when the media, which is meant to gather, process and relay information, supports the shutdown of all sources of information? In doing so, the media stands against the citizen who is trying to learn about the world around her — not as a matter of curiosity, but for her survival and her family’s well-being,” he said.

Noting that the state today has established full control over the media and the corporations, limiting information flow, thereby narrowing the scope of citizenship, Ravish stressed that citizen journalism is the need of the hour, saying that if media turned against its people then it is time for them to take the role of the media.

“In my opinion, citizen journalism is the need of the hour when the media and mainstream journalism turn hostile to information. When the struggle for information itself is described as anti-national, and disagreement is decried as treason, ‘testing time’ is a meek euphemism for where we are today. When the media turns against the citizen, then it’s time for the citizens to take on the role of the media.”

The ace journalist’s comments come in the wake of rising attacks and restrictions on journalists across the world. Recently, cops charged Pawan Jaiswal, a UP scribe for exposing a midday meal scam, wherein students in a government school were seen eating roti with salt as part of their midday meal.

Earlier this year, the government had decided not to let journalists into ministry premises without appointments, even if they had PIB accreditation, which was not the case before.

Last month, NDTV’s Prannoy Roy, Radhika Roy and Vikram Chandra were charged with FDI violations, besides corruption.

Ravish’s speech also included mentions about him being trolled and threatened for taking a stand in his career.

Mentioning the trolling incidents, he revealed how he thought someone was trolling him when he was called for the Magsaysay award.

“I have received thousands of calls from trolls in my life but never from a woman. I quickly shut off the speaker and put the phone against my ear. In sophisticated English, the woman informed me that I won the Ramon Magsaysay Award, 2019.”