Death of Gauri Lankesh: A question over the safety of journalist with legal Perspective.

Tanay Akash, BA LL.B. Legal News Reporter

Media, also known as 4th pillar of democracy and Journalists, the Iron Bars inside this pillar who have the responsibility of showing truth and acting as a mirror for society. But when attacks over these journalist begin and these shameful acts gets converted into death incidents, the situation becomes worst. For any democratic country to run smoothly without any discrimination (social, political or economic), media plays and important role and the recent incident of the death of the senior journalist “Gauri Lankesh” in a so called mob lynching is a severe threat to this nature of democracy. This threatens the freedom of press and the Freedom of Speech and Expression guaranteed under the Indian Constitution and raised a severe demand to enact the stronger laws for the security of journalists under law.

Gauri Lankesh: A brief profile

Gauri Lankesh born on 29th January 1962, was a journalist cum Activist from Karnataka working as an Editor in her own weekly “Gauri Lankesh patrika”. She started her career in journalism with “The Times of India” and then she went to Delhi with her husband Chidanand Rajghatta and then returned back to Bengaluru joining the “Sunday” and worked for almost 9 years. She also worked for a TV channel “Eenadu’s Telugu TV channel” when in 2000 her father died and after the death of her father she and her brother wanted to quit the magazine “Lankesh Patrika” which was ran by her father but the publisher convinced them not to cease and Gauri became the editor and her brother took the publication part. Later on because of some ideological conflicts with her brother she started her own weekly and named it as “Gauri Lankesh Patrika.”

In her personal life she got married with Chidanand Rajghatta but got divorced just after 5 years. She didn’t have any children but called activists such as ‘Jignesh Mevani’, ‘Kanhaiya Kumar’, ‘Umar Khalid’ and ‘Shela Rashid Shora’ as the adopted children and even met them in her home. She is well known for her critique nature towards the right winged Hindu extremists. According to her the Hindu religion is just a hierarchal structure with a discrimination on the basis of caste and gender present in it. Her several articles published in her weekly magazine contained matters against the “Sangh” and its working ideology. Personally she was in a great favour for the complete freedom of press and she believed that press must be free from any ideological or political influence. She even being a “Lingayat” Hindu was a great critique of the social practices prevalent in Hinduism and considered it just as a patriarchal form of social structure. It was also said that she was having sympathy with the Naxal movements and according to her these movements are due to caste struggles and the all spread discriminations in the society.

Gauri Lankesh and controversies

  • The first controversy related to Gauri Lankesh was promotion of Naxalism through her articles and this became the reason of conflict between her and her brother and just because of such ideological differences they filed cases against each other and she started her own weekly magazine.
  • Also, on 19th Feb 2015, protesters from the Hassan District Brahmin Association, organised a rally against her, urging the police to register a FIR against her.
  • After that, the major controversy associated with “Gauri Lankesh” is the article titled “Darodegilada BJP Galu” criticising BJP leaders “Pralhad Joshi”, “Umesh Joshi”, “Shivanand Bhat”, “Venkatesh Mistry” claiming that they were involved in a cheating of jewellery worth Rs. 100,000 and sources were claimed from inside BJP itself. Separate cases of Defamation were filed and on Oct 2016 JM, 2nd, Hubli, issued the arrest warrant and she was detained as well as produced before court but released on the personal bail bond of Rs. 25,000. Later on 27th Nov 2016 she was convicted for defamation and a fine of 10.000(5000 each) and an imprisonment of 6 months were given as no substantial evidence of theft were given. But anticipatory bail was granted and the matter went before High Court.


Death and Question of Law

On 5th September 2017, 3 unidentified man shot her outside her home in Rajarajeshwari Nagar on her Neck, Head and Chest and she died of these fatal gunshot wounds. All the political parties and leaders condemned this but it again raised the question over the security of journalists. According to report published in CPJ till now in India 1253 journalists have been killed, 808 of those were targeted for murder and 695 of those were murdered with impunity. Due to all these ‘a journalist’ body demanded the central government to come up with a law especially for the security purposes of journalists. In a letter to Union Minister of State for Information and Broadcasting ‘Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore’, the Indian Federation of Working Journalists (IFWJ) requested him to bring a ‘Risk Insurance Scheme’ of not less than Rs 1 Crore for scribes so that their families do not suffer economically if “something wrong” happens to them.

Apart from providing relief, it is the utmost duty of the government to ensure the safety of the journalists in India so that the 4th pillar of democracy can work without any socio political influence.

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