Silencing Newsclick

Bharat Dogra

The prompt and timely statement issued by the Delhi Union of Journalists (DUJ) on February 9 against the targeting of online news and opinion portal Newsclick (as well as attack on other independent and critical media voices) by the union government deserves wider support and backing by other media organisations, journalists, citizens, and all those who value free press and democracy.

The statement issued by the DUJ says, "We view these raids as a serious attack on the online media and the freedom of the press. Coming in the wake of the filing of the sedition charges against several senior journalists last week and the government moves to curb free speech on Twitter and YouTube, the raids are ominous. The aim is likely to intimidate and browbeat independent and critical voices that disagree with the government on critical issues."

Newsclick is an important print and video online portal in English and Hindi which has created an important space in India's media for its coverage of several important issues in interesting, fact-based and professionally competent ways. It has played an important role in consistently drawing attention to several very important issues and concerns which, due to various reasons, do not get adequate attention in media generally.

This media organisation has consistently focused attention on issues of important concern to workers and farmers, as well as on their struggles and various weaker sections. Its coverage of the farmers' movement in recent times has been widely appreciated.

Newsclick has also played an important role in taking up courageously several issues of national interests while opposing some objectionable aspects of the functioning of multinational companies and powerful billionaires and crony capitalists. It has a wider perspective on protecting the interests of developing countries in matters relating to trade, pharmaceuticals, agriculture and other important concerns. If atma nirbharta (self-reliance), a declared aim of the ruling regime but seldom implemented in true spirit.

Unfortunately such wider aspects of the contribution of media organisations like Newsclick are not appreciated in conditions of crony capitalism. Nor is there adequate appreciation for the contribution that Newsclick has made to coverage of such issues of increasing national and international importance as disarmament and environment protection. In addition Newsclick has published several reports from rural and urban areas, and from sites of social movements, which have been valuable for their insights and information. During the lockdown, for instance, it published a series of reports from many villages which were useful for understanding the new situation.

Concerns of democracy and free media demand that such media organisations which have an important space of covering important but neglected issues in independent ways, should get more respect instead of being targeted and harassed.

[The writer is a veteran journalist and author]

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Vol. 53, No. 35, Feb 28 - Mar 6, 2021