New Delhi: Arfa Khanum Sherwani, The Wire’s senior editor, received the Chhatrapati Samman award on November 22, Wednesday.
Khanum Sherwani dedicated her award to the Palestinian journalists killed in the line of duty in Gaza.
“Don’t wait for journalists to get killed, support them while they are alive,” she said in her acceptance speech.
“Indian journalism is going through its worst phase in history. We are living in a time where journalists are being branded as terrorists and enemies of the nation. While the majority of the mainstream media has become an extension of Narendra Modi’s propaganda machinery, those of us who are still questioning the most powerful people and raising issues of the marginalised [communities] are being punished in the worst possible ways. The people in power are dehumanising journalists to a point where any action against them can be justified. They are being hounded and prosecuted under anti-terror laws,” she said.
“But in the last one decade, the rise of alternate media, a byproduct of the demise of legacy media, is good news for democracy. Despite limited resources, and against all odds, platforms like The Wire are doing the crucial job of informing and educating people about their rights and creating a more informed citizenry. Mass movements like the Shaheen Bagh movement and Kisan Andolan are proof that the battle of truth and democracy will be fought, and one day won by our poorest and most marginalised people.”
“The people in power and their supporters online and offline attack me and use my religious identity to discredit my work as a journalist. Despite rape and death threats, I remain undettered because my greatest support comes from ordinary viewers like you. But like Ram Chander Chhatrapati, people should not wait for a journalist to get killed, support them while they are alive,” she added.
Ram Chander Chhatrapati, who was editor of Poora Sach, published from Sirsa in Haryana, was killed on October 24, 2002. For him, journalism was a mission to take on the high and the mighty who misused their position to the detriment of the common people.
Chhatrapati had found incriminating evidence against Dera Sacha Sauda chief, Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh. He fearlessly published stories until he was murdered on the evening of October 24, 2002.
His standing as an impartial and courageous journalist is evident from the recognition accorded by esteemed figures in the field, including notable journalists such as Kuldeep Nayyar, Ravish Kumar, and Urmilesh. They expressed their honour in receiving the Ram Chander Chhatrapati Journalism Award, established by his friends and family posthumously.