In a bid to instill fear in journalists who are critical of the government the ‘army of trolls’ has set a new low by resorting to death and rape threats
Waquar Hasan | Caravan Daily
NEW DELHI – Journalists who speak the truth and do honest journalism at a time when a large section of the Indian media avoids speaking the truth and asking valid questions to those in power, always stand out. For they not only question but also criticize the supporters of those in authority. These journalists, now often branded as ‘anti-establishment’ journalists have been targeted by the Hindutva forces. They are being vehemently harassed for their views and opinions, is not a new thing these days.
For the last few days, journalists like Burkha Dutt, Ravish Kumar, Abhisar Sharma, and Swati Chaturvedi and others, who have been critical of the ruling government of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), are facing the wrath of the troll army. They have been not just receiving vulgar messages and photos on Twitter and WhatsApp, their family members are now being wildly abused. They have also been receiving threat calls from various unknown numbers.
Women journalists are even being given rape threats. But the threats have not dented the courage of these journalists who have made their threat messages public from their Twitter handle and have also registered complain with the police.
“The biggest issue is that even the opposition is silent on this issue. Congress spoke a little about this issue. I think anyone who questions the government, be it a journalist, expert or commentator, they all are being abused. It is not a new phenomenon. Trolling on Twitter and Facebook has been the order of the day. But the vilest shape that it is taking at present is unprecedented. It has never happened in this way, where personal numbers are being made public so that the person can be trolled and abused,” reacted, senior journalist Arfa Khanum, who is currently working with the news portal The Wire.
Despite many making their online harassment public, there are many journalists who have been silent about their harassment. Khanum too has experienced her share of online trolling. She said, “These are only a few journalists who are making their grievances public. But there are a lot of journalists like me who are not even publicly expressing their grievances about vulgar online trolling. For example, a poster portraying me, Vinod Dua and Ravish Kumar was made and extensively shared on social media. If you will read the comments made below the poster, then you will see not just abuses but also threats of murder and rape.”
Arfa Khanum also said that as a journalist and Indian citizen, journalists who are targeted by the troll army are extremely scared and distressed. “Since they are very few in number they are being harassed,” said Khanum.
Trolling has become a norm since the Narendra Modi government came into power. In these few years, NDTV’s popular anchor Ravish Kumar and investigative journalist Rana Ayyub have also faced the worst type of harassment for their sincerity towards their job and highlighting the truth.
“They (Trolls) are habitual offenders. Those who raise their voices for the betterment of the society are attacked by ‘this’ deputed sena, which is of a new type,” commented Anil Chamadia, editor of Mass Media, while speaking about the right-wing trolls.
Speaking to Caravan Daily, he added, “When a group is on the verge of getting defeated, they make their last effort. Now the right-wing politicians and their supporters have started feeling that their time is going to end. That’s why they are becoming more vindictive. They are targeting mainly those critics who have been a popular face of popular media houses. By trolling these popular journalists they want to intimidate and instill fear in them to snatch their freedom of expression.”