I feel honoured to receive this coveted award from the IPI which is committed to safeguarding freedom of the press. To receive an award from an organisation of editors and other leading journalists serves as great encouragement in the difficult times we are passing through.
I thank the IPI jury chairman, Mr Soli Sorabjee and members of the jury for this recognition.
I am happy to receive the award from Mr Hamid Ansari, former Vice-President of India, someone who is committed to liberal values.
Most of all, I would like to thank and acknowledge the work of my colleagues Nazir Masoodi, who is here with us today…and Zaffar Iqbal, who doggedly pursued every lead on this story, investigated every angle and ensured that the story of the little girl was heard around the country.
The rape and murder of 8-year-old girl wasn't just another crime story. This was a horrific act against a child, which was followed by some of the ugliest communal polarisation we have seen. This horror was compounded by the shock of ministers in the state government attending rallies in support of the accused. We at NDTV stayed with the story from beginning to end, and last year, there was some justice as the key accused were found guilty and sentenced to life in prison.
This IPI award for us at NDTV comes at a time when free and fair media in this country is facing one of its biggest challenges. I am so very proud of what NDTV stands for- which is very simply for the truth, for real journalism that isn't just chasing TRPs or eyeballs. It would have been easy for us to kow-tow like the rest, to stoop to their level and reduce TV journalism to a spectacle of noise. But we have stood out and stood tall, despite all the intimidation that we face day in and day out. We are still here, and we plan to keep it that way. I want to thank Radhika and Prannoy for leading the way with their courage, their empathy.
These are – to use a cliche – truly testing times for the Indian media. Those of us who do our jobs as journalists are labelled anti-nationals. The sad truth is that very few are willing to speak truth to power, and you have – with some exceptions- a media that fawns over the establishment, unwilling to ask tough questions instead preferring to merely reproduce government handouts and pass that off as news. In the era of propaganda and fake news, the role of a free press is even more vital, a press that probes, that asks questions, that holds the government accountable to the people. What is happening today isn't just a red flag for the media- it is a crisis for us as a democracy. The press is a crucial pillar in a democracy, especially at a time when we see institutional decline all around us.
Many people today question the credibility of the TV news media. I don't blame them. The openly divisive, communal, hate-filled content we see on most news channels night after night is doing far more damage to us as a country than we can see on the surface. Every night they create imaginary enemies, put targets on people's backs and demonise minorities, which is why it is even more important to support those who are pushing back against this wall of hate. More than ever, we need a media that seeks answers, seeks justice, and tries to heal divides instead of creating them. At the risk of repeating myself, I am proud that this is what NDTV stands for and over the last few months. We have been overwhelmed with the support and love from folks who say we need you to survive, we need NDTV.
Finally, I would like to dedicate this award to my media colleagues in Kashmir, who are just emerging from a 7 month internet shutdown — the longest in a democracy, an unprecedented communications blackout — and faced some of the most unspeakable pressures. Yet they persevered to do their jobs, even though many publications simply gave up and ended up printing government press releases.
Before I go, I must thank my family, my colleagues at NDTV for being a beacon of light in these dark times for the media.
Despite all the challenges we face in the media today, I still have hope that truth will triumph.