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Dissent In Indian Media: Q&A with Neha Dixit

INDIA

But the penetration of smart phones has democratized the forum. Citizen journalism has exponentially risen. Even if the mainstream media is not covering an issue, people themselves are putting it out for public consumption. So it’s no longer possible to ignore what is happening on the ground, and it will only grow.

TMP: Do you see these non-profit bodies like the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) successfully supporting independent journalists like you?

In my case, while I’ve been in touch with a number of senior journalists who have supported me morally and tactfully, none of the Indian media bodies came up with even a single statement, including the Press Council of India, or the Editors Guild, or the IWC Press Corps. The only one was a statement signed by several intellectuals and writers and the Network of Women in Media in India. The other two statements that came out were international (one was CPJ).

Because of the pressures Outlook Magazine is under, I haven’t even been paid [six months later]. It’s kind of funny that I’m accused by trolls of being paid by Congress or someone when in fact I haven’t even been paid my professional fees to do this. I don’t know how feasible it is for me or anyone else to keep doing this without being paid for it, without proper practices in place.

Because I’m a privileged person and can write in English for national and international media, people still know about my case. But there are lots of journalists in smaller rural areas who are constantly receiving threats, and nobody takes up their case or talks about it.

TMP: What do you think media in India and especially foreign media needs to improve on to report the religion and caste elements in many stories?

What often happens, and this doesn’t apply just to foreign media but to any upper-middle-class person in India, is that we don’t acknowledge our privileges when reporting. And various layers are sometimes left out to make it a more simplistic narrative.

For example, I did a story on four Dalit girls raped in Haryana. I wanted to put in the caste angle, because it wasn’t like the women were just picked up and raped. They were part of the landless community, and the landless community had revolted against the land-owning community in the village. So to teach the entire landless community a lesson was why these women were raped.

So I would say that there is more need to acknowledge these complexities on the ground. The conflict is not just between two religions. The conflict is also between two castes and class.

TMP: How would you compare American and Indian media coverage of their leaders’ elections?

I’m not venerating U.S. media, but at least for Trump, the U.S. media was still questioning him on his sexism and misogyny. That wasn’t happening here with Mr. Modi. Yes, after demonetization people are writing about it in a funny manner. But at the same time we are still not questioning the misogyny. There were allegations on Modi on a personal thing with a particular girl, and the story was killed. The entire Gujarati police machinery was involved in spying on this girl. The entire story died down. These stories are not coming out. Shouldn’t the mainstream media be fair and question the establishment and anti-establishment? That is not being done.

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