India has occupied center stage in global news the last few weeks because of breaking daily average COVID-19 case counts in the history of this pandemic. However, the country is also battling intense muzzling and communal violence at the hands of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
Being a journalist in India is a perilous task because speaking out against the government can even result in death, evidenced by the assassinations of figures in media like Gauri Lankesh and Shujaat Bukhari. Now, India ranks 142 out of 180 countries in the 2021 World Press Freedom Index. “Indians who espouse Hindutva, the ideology that gave rise to radical right-wing Hindu nationalism, are trying to purge all manifestations of “anti-national” thought from the public debate,” stated Reporters Without Borders, who created the Index.
They went on: “The coordinated hate campaigns waged on social networks against journalists who dare to speak or write about subjects that annoy Hindutva followers are terrifying and include calls for the journalists concerned to be murdered. The campaigns are particularly violent when the targets are women.”
Many Indian newsrooms have bent to accommodate the right-wing’s wishes, often pandering to their sentiments and spreading misinformation in tandem. Good journalism built on a strong foundation of ethical practices is winnowing and news coverage in India today has more in common with public relation campaigns than holding the powerful accountable. Gag orders and accusing critics of being terrorists (even an act was passed to legitimize such unfounded claims) have become a terrifying reality for the average Indian.
But in spite of such threats, there are a few beacons of truth spotlighting injustice and they need your help. This World Press Freedom Day, Culturas focused on five newsrooms from a handful of mainstream Indian outlets that are doing it right even in the face of danger.
The Caravan is India’s first long-form narrative journalism magazine that quickly gained prominence as what is arguably the best source of investigative reporting in the country. They recently caused a stir on social media for their coverage of India’s farmer protests that got their Twitter account banned and then reinstated (read our coverage of the issue here). The Caravan is able to produce deeply reported stories through robust subscriptions. Support their journalism here.
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Similar to The Caravan, The Wire is an independent, nonprofit media outlet that consistently engages in brave news coverage with a balanced eye. The newsroom also makes frequent use of data to boost story credibility, underscoring the need for widely recorded and publicly accessible databases in India. “Journalism is in India is technically safe–but only when it’s propaganda. That’s not what we do–we speak truth to power,” said their Instagram page. Support The Wire here.
Newslaundry is an award-winning Indian media company that highlights unique angles and deep takes over being the first to break the story itself. They are also one of the first larger platforms that utilized multiple forms of media like podcasts and video to produce commentary that is simultaneously polished and unfiltered. Support Newslaundry here.
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Scroll.in operates in a style similar to others on this list. But this newsroom also made waves for being a bloodhound for curious stories about the offbeat cultural elements of India. Support Scroll.in here.
Almost 40 years running, The Telegraph is an Indian English daily newspaper that is a staple of eastern India. But the paper grabbed national attention in its own right because of its intense scrutiny of the BJP’s oppression at a time when many traditional newspapers do not dare to. The Telegraph‘s recent surge in popularity is because of its steady stream of rule-bending, tongue-in-cheek headlines laced with historical and political references that hold not only the government but also the unthinking citizen accountable. Support The Telegraph by reading the daily digital version here.
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This list is by no means an exhaustive one. But it provides an insight into brave and efficient Indian journalism that does not cower. When reading stories about the country through the pens (and keyboards) of global giants like The New York Times and The Washington Post, one’s understanding of the Indian scenario is only half complete if local news outlets such as the ones mentioned above are overlooked.