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Reporters without Borders, a global non-governmental organization, has reported that 49 journalists were killed worldwide in 2019. This is a 16-year low, but it scarcely hides the fact that journalism remains one of the world’s most dangerous professions. The flipside of the Paris-based watchdog’s report is that 389 scribes were jailed in 2019, a 12% increase over the previous year. This may have something to do with the rise in authoritarian and conservative regimes across the world, which has shrunk space for dissent. The world’s most powerful man, US President Donald Trump, loses no opportunity to vilify news media and newsmen. Journalists are thrown behind bars simply for doing their job in far too many countries. China, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia account for half of all journalists imprisoned.

Why are journalists at such high risk? Because it is their duty to uncover corruption of the high and the mighty, amplify the voice of people, especially the most voiceless, and defend their rights. Little wonder that authorities see them as pesky threats to their positions of privilege. It is usually in the name of national security that insecure regimes round up journalists and put them in prison, often without trial.

In India, what some of the media has suffered is vilification of another kind, with suspicions cast on the motives of journalists, even as an avalanche of online fake news has led large numbers of people not to trust fact-conscious news outlets. The term “presstitute", popularized by a former army general turned politician, remains in currency as a slur. That’s a pity. But perhaps more and more people will learn to discern truth from falsehood, and media folk must help them along.

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