Ranjona Banerji: Wanted Journalism with Courage

04 Sep,2018

By Ranjona Banerji


Two Reuters journalists, Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, have been sentenced to seven years in prison by a Myamnar court. Their “crime”: violating a secrets act. The two journalists were arrested carrying “official” documents that had just been given to them by the police. Their crime, in fact, was investigating the deaths of 10 Rohingyas by those who had confessed to the murders. The journalists were clearly set up by the police.

The subject they were investigating was an incendiary one as Myamnar has been battling allegations of the killing and ill-treatment of Rohingyas, sparking a refugee crisis in the neighbourhood.

There are lessons here for all journalists and for all citizens: an authoritarian state is out to get you if you do not act as PR agents for the government. This official mindset must be fought at all levels. Capitulation is not an option. (Indian journalists who toe the government line need to hang their heads in shame in the face of such bravery.)

It is sad that after years of fighting against military rule, Myanmar still seems unable to fully embrace democracy.




It will be a year tomorrow since Gauri Lankesh was murdered just outside her home in Bengaluru. We saw the worst of our “nationalist” friends within the media as they looked for ways to blame liberals and Lankesh herself, and at the same time exonerate the Hindutva rightwing for her death. The police investigation into her death however has revealed that it was the Hindutva rightwing that was responsible.

We owe it to her memory and her strong journalism to keep the battle on and resist, even within ourselves, the temptation to give in to authority. There is no other way.


The arrests of lawyers and civil rights activists in connection with the Bhima Koregaon violence has been one more flashpoint of division between pro-government and normal journalists. The underlying thread from our government PR agents has been that journalists are only speaking up because it is this BJP-led Narendra Modi government which is in power. However, when Dr Binayak Sen and some of the same activists were arrested by the last dispensation, the same “liberal” journalists were equally strong in their stories and opinions. To fight against authority is our mandate.

But we have to deal with what is happening now. The journalist as a perpetual historian is the journalist who is a cop

out. There is much to be investigated in the so-called police case against these activists, especially this apparent assassination plot as well as the need to link these activists to the Bhima Koregaon violence of January this year. There are also the reputations of the police officers involved to be taken into consideration. For that one needs courage, not an overarching need for a Padma award or an official PR job.

This report accessed by Times Now (would you believe it!) is an absolute shocker but how much traction has it seen. The rumours that the government is trying to play down in the Hindutva rightwing involvement in the Bhima Koregaon violence and to deflect attention from the arrests into Gauri Lankesh’s murder get more traction now:



For an in-depth look into how journalism should be practised by journalists who care, this excerpt from an upcoming book by Alan Rusbridger is a must. The formidable former editor of The Guardian writes about the “two decades that changed journalism forever”.



Ranjona Banerji is a senior journalist and commentator. She is also Consulting Editor, MxMIndia. The views here are personal.


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