Free pages, free lenses

 Published in: The Daily Star on October 25, 2023
Free pages, free lenses

Today, in this shrunken courtroom of this world, Free Press is being hunted down and sent to oblivion. FILE PHOTO: AFP

In most parts of the world, editors are often requested to halt or alter a piece to be published. In cases of critical coverage, he or she is even attempted to be silenced or replaced. The methods of intervention range from a phone call to the editor followed by their media outlet being discredited and journalists being subjected to verbal and physical threats.

There’s a reason why, between 2016 and 2021, 455 reporters died (according to Unesco), while 73 percent of 625 women journalists surveyed by the International Center for Journalists in 2020 experienced online violence, with nine out of ten cases remaining unsolved. There’s a reason why only a few thousand stories see the light of the day and a million or more don’t. There’s a reason why some stories come dressed in propaganda, and some never get told in the absence of a good storyteller; why some go viral, and some are swept under the rug. Some just never get written.

He worked as a human rights advocate and was part of a local civil society organisation that used people to become citizen journalists. He was a reporter, a news presenter, and he was last seen leaving his workplace at 7pm on April 7, 2020. His last text said that he was surrounded by soldiers. There’s a reason why Ibraimo Abú Mbaruco from North Mozambique went missing.

He was covering a violent dispersal of protests staged by members of the Gonabadi dervishes, a Sufi splinter group. It was February 19, 2018. There’s a reason why Kasra Nouri, an Iranian journalist was sentenced to 12 years in prison, 74 lashes, two years in exile in a remote city, a two-year ban on political, social, and media activities, and a two-year ban on travelling outside Iran.

She was an Egyptian blogger, an internet activist, a social media coordinator, and a freelance journalist. There’s a reason why, on October 12, 2019, a bunch of plainclothes security personnel in unmarked vehicles beat Esraa Abdelfattah, forcibly dragged her into one of their cars, handcuffed her hands and legs for almost eight hours and strangled her when she refused to give up the passwords to her phones.

There’s a reason why Sandhya Ravishankar from Tamil Nadu was subjected to online harassment, death threats, rape threats, and doxing and why, in terms of freedom of press ranking, her country slipped to 161 from 150 in 2022, out of 180 countries, over the span of a year.