A senior female journalist. editor-in-chief of a local newspaper and social activist was shot dead in my city a couple of hours ago. She was a respected woman, known for fearlessness and strength. She has been involved in bringing Naxalites to the mainstream population throughout her career and was vocal in terms of criticizing the current establishment in New Delhi for its communal traits. She was also held guilty for defaming some right-wing leaders.
Kannada news channels started reporting the incident almost immediately.
“There were two killers on a motorbike who knocked on her door. She answered the call to find some unknown men at her gate and an altercation ensued for a couple of minutes, after which the men on the bike shot her in her forehead and at her chest” was how a news channel described it.
The anchor of the news channel, then aired his views on the growing intolerance in Karnataka which is very unlike the character of the state and its people. “Left or right, it doesn’t matter. Killing is wrong” he said.
Half hour later, they showed the first still photograph and another ten minutes later they showed some live visuals from the spot. The story had changed now. “There were 2-4 people who shot about 4-6 rounds at her. She had alighted from her car and was at the gate of her house” was the latest report.
A close aide of the dead was brought on air, he was questioned if the deceased had received any death threats. Another channel reported about a close friend of the late journalist sharing with the channel that the deceased had informed about some threats for a month now.
The home minister of the state came on air to acknowledge the incident and that he’d provide an update half an hour later. A writer came on air to express his anguish even as the anchor questioned him about the killing of writers and intellectuals in the last two years. The writer broke down remembering his friend.
The national media pitched in, politicising it more. Anchor after anchor across channels are firing convoluted questions wanting to catch at least one wrongly uttered word by the great minds of nation who debate on just about everything on prime time news.
“She was convicted by the court. If a businessman can be called a criminal when he defaults on his loans, why shouldn’t she be attributed as a criminal” said a right-winger on the national media.
“A woman is dead. Is that how you address her?” questioned someone else. The issue had just turned into yet another right-wing vs left-wing political drama.
The anchor on the first Kannada channel remarked “When a human life is lost, nothing else should matter. When will people learn not to kill each other over ideologies, left or right.”
Back on another Kannada channel, a reporter graphically described “Her body was lying there on the porch after being shot by 4 gunmen on two bikes. She didn’t have the time to react to the attack, her body lying there, even her slippers didn’t come off her leg, she probably had a shock and died.”
I felt some churning in my stomach. A stage had just been set for another fortnight’s worth of high voltage senseless debates on news channels, allegations, counter-allegations.
As far as the stooping levels of journalism ethics is concerned, let’s just say they’ve degraded faster than our politicians and the society. The rise of one political force may have polarized the nation into two majority factions, but it’s the media that’s fuelling this division. If only they showed some respect towards the death of a human being and not debate such incidents, we – the people, wouldn’t have heard such disgraceful comments from our elected and non-elected politicians. We wouldn’t have heard such disgraceful comments from the mouths of TRP-mongering anchors.
I stared at the visuals of the death scene. Her face, her now lifeless eyes were in pain – I felt.
“A pen is mightier than a sword” goes the old saying. A gun just showed its might over the pen. I just hope another thousand pens can stand up to that gun, because “Ideas are bulletproof. You can kill a person behind an idea, but not the idea itself.”
I’m a neutral person, most times. I believe there’s no idea that’s worth dying or killing for. But every once in a while, people like me have to lean a bit towards either sides, to stand up for truth and condemn violence and other negative forces around us. I just hope that whatever idea this woman stood for and represented, lives on for generations. Hope she is remembered in the future.