Magsaysay Awardee Journalist P. Sainath addresses Journalists of Eastern UP
Venue: Paradkar Smriti Sabhagar, Varanasi
Date: Friday, November 29, 2019
The holy city of Varanasi and Lok Sabha constituency of PM Narendra Modi witnessed a historic event last Friday when celebrated Journalist and Ex-Editor (Rural Affairs) of The Hindu, P. Sainath delivered a scintillating and insightful lecture on the the Freedom of Rural Journalists in Paradkar Smriti Bhawan at Kashi Patrakar Sangh.
The event was organised by the Committee Against Assault on Journalists (CAAJ), an umbrella organisation of independent media and civil society groups working for the cause of Right to Freedom of Expression and Speech. The UP unit of CAAJ with around half a dozen Journalist bodies, Human Rights body like PVCHR and Civil Society group like Saajha Sanskriti Manch were instrumental in mobilising rural Journalists and individuals from 9 districts of Eastern UP. The three hour event saw full house that had become an unusual sight in the city in last few years.
The program started with a book release event. The main speaker Sainath with invited senior Editors and guests released a collection of ground reportage "Desgaon" by Abhishek Srivastava, a Delhi based freelance Journalist brought up in Varanasi. Book is published by Agora Publishers.
Sainath started his lecture with applause that in last twenty years, he has not seen any dedicated work on rural journalism except Jaydeep Hardikar's book and "Desgaon" is the only one of its kind in Hindi that contains reports from ten states where half of this country resides.
Starting from the corporatisation of mainstream media, Sainath marked a distinction between journalism and media and deliberated upon the attacks that rural journalists are facing since last few years. Citing a Centre for Media Studies report, he outlined that before 2013, all fatal attacks on journalists were essentially in villages and suburban setup. Elite journalists had to face nothing before that but after 2013, things changed. Upper class and upper caste journalists that were previously insured from attacks had to start paying a double premium after Sangh Parivar regime came to power, the chain of attacks starting from rationalist Narendra Dabholkar to high profile journo Gauri Lankesh, who were murdered in broad daylight.
He emphasized on the fact that the common factor in all these attacks was that, all the victims were non-English writers of Indian languages. Not a single English language journalist had to suffer fatal attack that speaks of their privileged position. Deliberating upon the growing inequality in villages and climate change due to denigrated lifestyle of the countryside, he said that only a rural journalist could document the changes as urban journalist could not even differentiate between temperature, weather and climate.
Sainath spoke of PARI (Peoples' Archive of Rural India) model that he is running in thirteen Indian languages. He advised rural journalists to form digital platforms on co-operative model and pledged them support in their endeavours. Sainath stressed upon building networks and reviving Journalist unions also.
Sainath's lecture was his first in Varanasi and Eastern UP that saw many local and regional journalist bodies joining hands in organising the event. Moreover, usually English speaking Sainath delivered this lecture in Hindi and for more than an hour that was attended by more than two hundred rural scribes and individuals.
Full Audio of Lecture
Note: Full text of the lecture in Hindi to follow soon.
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