The killing of journalist-activist Gauri Lankesh by unidentified assailants has saddened media fraternity and the protests across the nation are indicators that it was nothing short of murder of a voice of dissent. Angry reaction to her killing shows how people have stood up for Gauri Lankesh, who held a dissenting view on variety of issues, a sign of vibrant democracy, her right to express her opinion. However, the manner in which she was brutally murdered raises questions as her killers fired at her from point-blank range just outside her home in Bangaluru when she got out of her car, hitting her on the chest and the temple. They fled without even once getting off their motorbike pointing to a professional contract killing.
We at Tehelka are all the more sad because she had been writing an occasional column for us. In one of her columns for Tehelka ‘Operation Media Gagging’ she warned of threats to intellectuals including media persons as if she had the premonition of the fateful day. Gauri Lankesh, the editor of the Kannada weekly Gauri Lankesh Patrike, always wore her activism on her sleeve. Journalism and social activism, has suffered a loss, and her death must be mourned. From time to time, Tehelka has been writing on threats to media and our special issue ‘Stop writing or else’, published last year, focused on growing culture of intolerance and hate. At this juncture, we have to unite for a free run to exchange of ideas to stand up against the politics of division coming in the path of individual rights, privacy and freedom of speech and expression. We don’t have to allow the brutal murder of Gauri Lankesh to instill fear in the minds of independent journalists and thinkers. Also until the identity of her killers is established, it would not be wise to hold any party or person responsible.
She has left a clear message: stand up for what you believe in, fight out relentlessly regardless of the consequences. The untimely killing of the fiercely independent journalist is certainly an attack on the freedom of press. Gauri Lankesh’s killers must be found before it is too late or else it will embolden those who silence dissent. Her murder has taken place in a year that India dropped three places in the World Press Freedom Index from 133 to 136 compiled by Reporters without Borders. The report mentioned that journalists were increasingly targets of online smear campaigns and threats while “Prosecutions are also used to gag journalists who are overly critical of the government.” It is high time the government reassures journalists and comes out with a legislation providing foolproof protection to journalists.