Lai and Democracy

The Chinese Police have arrested 73-year-old Jimmy Lai, a leading figure in the Hong Kong media. He has been accused of colluding with foreign powers. The situation in Hong Kong, which was under British control, changed after it was handed to China. Hong Kong had an open atmosphere before coming under Chinese jurisdiction. However, Chinese dictatorship began later. Lai is a staunch supporter of Democracy. He was born in China. He suffered from injustices at the hands of the Communist Government in China from an early age.

He was born into an affluent family; but after the Communist Government came to power in China, his family was pushed into the abyss of poverty. In 1989, China brutally crushed the students’ movement. Lai then repeatedly attacked the Communist Government. Democracy was openly supported by his Hong Kong-based magazine, the Apple Daily. All this was bothering China. Criminal cases were filed against him, a plot was hatched to kill him, and his home was attacked; but, Lai never surrendered. He has now been arrested and he has been denied bail. Therefore, he will face many problems in the days to come. The fight that Hong Kong citizens have waged to free themselves from the yoke of China has been strengthened by people like Lai. No matter where they rule in the world, Communists have a history of ruthlessly eliminating their opponents. Lai is facing a strong China. Only time will tell how long he will be able to hold on against China.

This is not the only example. Instances of annihilation of those who fight against the prevailing system of injustice are taking place in various parts of the world now too. Journalist Ruhollah Zam was recently hanged in Iran for speaking out against the Government. He was punished for exposing the Government’s incompetency. In 2017, he launched a nationwide agitation to protest against rising inflation and unemployment due to Government policies. He got a huge response from the people. After realising that Zam would prove to be troublesome, the Government started persecuting him. He then went into exile but he was arrested in 2019 and has now been hanged.

There are many journalists in the world who oppose the unjust treatment at the hands of the Government and risk their lives in striving to inculcate Democracy. On 2nd October 2018, Jamal Khashoggi, a US-based journalist and critic of Saudi Arabia’s Government, walked into the country’s consulate in Istanbul, where he was murdered.

India is a Democracy. There is freedom of speech and writing. Nobody has been hanged for writing, speaking or agitating against the Government in India. However, it is also necessary to ensure that Democracy is not being abused anywhere.

Transition in Indian Journalism

Currently, Indian journalism is witnessing polarization. After Independence, Indian journalism was dominated by ‘secularism’. It was at its peak in the 90’s decade. Due to this influence, the image of minorities as ‘victims’ and majority of Hindus as ‘perpetrators of injustice’, pro-Hindu organisations as ‘fanatical’ and jihadi organisations as ‘nationalists’ was created in the media. For this, the practice of attacking Hindus, devout Hindus and Hindu organisations through writing had been going on for many decades. After 2014, when Narendra Modi and his Government came to power, the picture changed. Now, there are Periodicals and news channels that take the side of Hindus and expose the atrocities being perpetrated on them. At present, Indian journalism is divided on the lines of Communists and pro-Hindu or nationalists. Thus, the aspect of nationalism has always come up. It is safe to say that there is a glimmer of hope for India now that there is journalism which gives at least some priority to nationalism and nurtures it.

Democracy is in danger due to journalism ?

If the Government makes any mistakes, it needs to be shown the mirror just as firmly. However, if someone is carrying out an anti-Government agitation in a hateful or anti-national manner, its reporting should be just as pointed.

Whether it is an agitation by Communist students in JNU or an agitation at Shaheen Bagh, such agitations are anti-national. If someone is agitating for an inappropriate demand, the agitation would not be appropriate. Due to non-adherence to this simple rule of reporting in India, such agitations were glorified by some newspapers and news channels. Such journalism is dangerous for Indian Democracy.

India is a democratic country with a free environment. Here, even if the Prime Minister is directly branded as a ‘scoundrel’, a ‘merchant of death’, a ‘dictator’, etc., none of those who say so fall into trouble because Democracy has given us the freedom to speak or write. How much freedom should be there is a different matter.

The point here is that India, unlike Iran, does not have a tradition of hanging journalists who protest against the Government. In India, when journalists have so much freedom, it is a subject of research whether this freedom is not being abused by journalists.

Out of sheer hatred for Modi and anti-Hindu sentiments, there is a large number of journalists in India who take anti-national and anti-people stands. In short, the journalists in the world who play a role in public and national interests are being crucified; however, in India, journalists who take anti-national and anti-people stance are free !

Why so ? The answers to these questions need to be found while understanding the arrest of Lai and the execution of Zam !

India, unlike Iran, does not have a tradition of hanging journalists who protest against the Government !