Prashant Dayal, Ahmedabad: A person entering the field of journalism comes from the society around us, thus we get the kind of journalist as the society around us. But no journalist should use this as an argument to slack from his social responsibility. A journalist could be insensitive to certain things, but once he/she is into the profession, he has to be sensitive about everything around. A journalist’s job is to tell stories of the society through his pen or the camera, but he/she shouldn’t forget that about who he/she is writing the story about is not just a topic but an actual person.

For the last one decade, Gujarati journalism has begun to emulate the English journalism, where every day there are morning meetings between the reporters and the editors. The reporters inform the happenings of their respective beats like crime, education, politics, etc. and the editors take the call on what kind of action needs to be taken on the story presented by the reporters and they should pursue it or not. A doctor or any medical staff working every day in the post-mortem room won’t flinch on seeing a dead body. Similarly, for journalists and editors too people have now become just another story to be told. Rape is a crime that is painful and gruesome, whether it’s committed on a woman belonging to a well-off family or a poor one.

But the gravity of the crime in our country is decided on the basis of parameters like where the person lives, their community, education, financial condition, etc. If a farm labourer belonging to some tiny village in Kutch becomes victim to this horrific crime, her pain and suffering is presented in a short, two-paragraph story in some deep corner of the newspaper. If the same crime takes place is big cities like Ahmedabad or Delhi, it becomes a big story. But again, if the victim is a poor person, the number of words in the story falls drastically. One could accept the fact that the management or administration might not be sensitive, but the journalist must be sensitive to such issues and it is his/her responsibility to maintain it themselves.

Nobody is going to tell the journalists to be sensitive; it is something that they have to cultivate amongst themselves. I’ve overheard crime reporters discuss rape cases where they’d say that rape was committed on a girl belonging to a ‘good family.’ Here the term ‘good family’ is used to imply that the victim belonged to the middle-class or upper middle class family and probably came from a higher caste. Rape, whether it is conducted on a person belonging to the higher strata of society or someone from the minority, it shouldn’t be looked at with difference of views. Another glaring example of classification and insensitive outlook towards this horrific crime on women is when journalists term a rape on someone from a poor family as ‘small case of rape’ and vice versa if the victim belongs to a well-to-do family.

Talking of being insensitive, many don’t realise the rotten mindset of their by classifying a specific community under the bad light when statements like ‘Yusuf is a good man despite being a Muslim, he doesn’t look like one” are made. There couldn’t be a worse insult than this to the Muslim community. It’s as if a belief that has crept into us that Muslims are bad. There are many Muslim leaders who’ve immensely contributed to the country’s politics, but they are referred to as a nationalist Muslim leader.

Is it necessary to call use the term nationalist specifically when praising a Muslim public leader? Patriotism is in the DNA of every Indian citizen, one cannot separate it. Why don’t people use the term nationalist while praising a Hindu public leader? We have begun to believe that patriotism is only in Hindus and that Muslims are not equally patriotic. A journalist must be sensitive towards these issues and address them. If a journalist is mentally sick, narrow-minded and backward thinking then the society will turn hollow too. Because even today, newspapers are read with the same devotion as that of Gita, Quran, Bible or Mahabharat.

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