The Power & Influence of Journalism [speech transcrtipt]
How does one operate in an atmosphere of hostility? It’s not done
openly, but for sure it exists. Often the fourth estate, the watchdog
of democracy and harmony, can hardly bark, let alone bite. The burning
of a missionary, the rape of nuns, the destruction of churches, the
assault of a priest are ominous signals to Christians of all
denominations. Contributions rendered over the years in the fields of
education, nursing, social service are simply not taken into account.
How many perpetrators against the Christian community in India have
been brought to book? Commissions of inquiry are appointed but very
little comes out of them. Action? Seldom! A true picture or a
distorted, engineered report?
Against this backdrop we are expected to report objectively and
dispassionately, to be correct and impartial. It is no wonder that
those who try to do their Christian duty are branded as activists.
Talking of activists, three days before I left Chennai I met John
Dayal, the editor of the mid-day newspaper, based in Delhi. He has
involved himself in the United Christian Council which is, currently
involved in telling Christians about various anti-Christian activities
around India, activities which, as a journalist, he obviously is privy
to. We are due to have our general elections during the month of
September and, the information he gave at that meeting was most
valuable. I heard him and I also saw the reaction from the 600
organisations that were represented.
I stood back and realised what a valuable contribution this
journalist was making. A committed Catholic, all John was doing was
parting with inside information on atrocities that are committed
against fellow Christians. Everything he said was backed up by hard,
In the past twelve months I have had three different families come
into our office in deep distress. Parents of one young woman were
distraught. Their young daughter had been murdered by her in-laws, in
much the same way as Parvati, whom I spoke about earlier. Well I told
the story and then went over to the police authorities who had, until
then, totally neglected the whole case. We went to the girls’ in-laws
and, as usually happens, they denied everything. We kept at it and the
sum total is that there has been a conviction.
Gradually, at least in Chennai city, the incidents of sexual
harassment, or “Eve-teasing” — the word that we often use — have begun
to come down. Since the start of this year there have been 560 cases as
against 1,200 for the same period last year. Women and their issues are
important to me as a Christian.
But there are also the stories of hope that we can tell, the stories
that speak of honesty and goodness, qualities that seem to be vanishing
before our very yes. I recently met a 99-year-old bishop. We
interviewed him about his life, and, sitting right up, next to him with
the camera registering every line on his face, I saw his eyes fill with
tears. He was saying how he still felt strong enough to work. “What
work would you do, Your Grace?” I prodded him. He answered me, in
utmost simplicity. “Anything…anything..anything for God. I feel strong
enough to do even manual work.” This from an old man who was shuffling
around his room and needed help much of the time.