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Death of a journalist, and silence of the celeb journalists

A journalist Jagendra Singh was burnt alive in Uttar Pradesh allegedly because he posted some news reports about illegal mining and land grabbing by a local Samajwadi Party leader Ram Murti Verma, who also happens to be a minister in Akhilesh Yadav cabinet.

The murderous attack on Jagendra happened more than a week back on 1st June, but it came to national light only yesterday. That too, because some people on Twitter decided to play up the news report about his murder, which was otherwise not given a prominent place on the homepages of leading news portals, or on the front page of national newspapers, or a few minutes of high pitch debate on national TV channels.

In such a scenario, the question arises – why was this apathy shown towards a person of their own fraternity by leading journalists?

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Most people, especially those highlighting this on social media, argue that the reason is because the accused is not from BJP. Our celeb journalists see an attack on journalism only when the erring party is the BJP, else everyone knows how “they crawled when asked to bend” during the Emergency clamped by Congress.

While there is a truth to this political and ideological bias among celeb journalists, the primary reason is not just politics.

Journalist Jagendra Singh
Not a martyr in the eyes of our celeb journalists?

It is class.

Yes. The same “class” that a celeb journalist Rajdeep Sardesai talked about when physically assaulting an NRI in New York. “Paisa aa gaya per class nahi aaya”, he had said.

Poor journalists like Jagendra Singh are deemed to have neither paisa (money) nor class by Delhi based celeb journalists, so their death is just a footnote in the annals of Lutyens journalism.

They don’t have money because Indian media industry is hugely exploitative where big money is only for the big bosses. How will they get salaries in crores if they don’t hire interns for free or keep some ‘middle level’ editors slogging without similar pay raises?

And they don’t have class (in the eyes of celeb journalists) because they can’t speak accented English or have family ties with “influential people”.

The travesty is that celeb journalists get all the money and fame while it is the poor “classless” journalists like Jagendra Singh (who are either independent local journalists or reporters working for paltry salaries), who do the groundwork and indulge in real journalism, get penury and anonymity, and sometimes, death.

Gone are the days when journalists toiled in the fields or took risks themselves to unearth some scam or dig out some information that was kept away from the common masses. Now is the era where celeb journalists just pontificate and freeload over the work done by poor faceless reporters.

Even after the advent of RTI, hardly any of these celeb journalists used the tool to expose any wrongdoings or scam. We have a group of faceless people called “RTI activists” (who too are killed like Jagendra Singh was killed), and their work is “stolen” by our celeb journalists. Shouldn’t our media organizations have been the real RTI activists?

But why will they risk their lives and risk “relationships” with political honchos when there are Jagendras willing to do some real groundwork, whose work can always be freeloaded upon by the mainstream media?

Our established media and celebrity journalists know that their power and fame (and salaries) are dependent on these real hardworking people living in obscurity and penury; that is why they are scared of making heroes out of Jagendra.

And that is the reason for apathy. No need to make a hero out of Jagendra and accord him that “class” that is reserved only for the Lutyens journalists.

That is why their concern for Jagendra won’t go beyond a token tweet. There will not be a string of op-eds or any silent marches. There will not be a long lasting TV campaign seeking justice.

And yes, no celeb journalist will feel threatened due to this mafia-like-murder, because this is not as bad as some random tweet containing abusive words – the only risk the celeb journalists face in their profession. The real risks are faced by faceless and nameless and “classless” Jagendras.

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