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Journalism of Courage

From the Urdu Press: Celebrating President Murmu to spotlighting CJI media concerns to telling Zubair story

‘The message of Murmu’s elevation to the country’s highest office should reach everywhere,’ the Daily Salar writes. ‘The moment should not remain merely symbolic. The new President will also have to ensure that it becomes enduring. The world is going to see a new face of India’s tremendous diversity.’

President-elect Droupadi Murmu and Mohammed Zubair, the co-founder of fact-checking website AltNews

In their reports and commentary over the last week, leading Urdu dailies hailed the election of Droupadi Murmu as India’s first-ever tribal President, calling the incredible arc of her journey from a remote village in a backward district of Odisha to the dizzying heights of the Rashtrapati Bhavan atop New Delhi’s Raisina Hills as a triumph of Indian democracy. They also found Chief Justice of India N V Ramana’s anguish over the state of democracy and media in the country deeply significant and resonant. In the Kafkaesque trials and tribulations of journalist and fact-checker Mohammed Zubair they found glaring signs of a weakening democracy that got some redemption when the Supreme Court intervened and fortified the cause of justice and freedom.


In its leader on July 23, headlined “Mulk mein ek nae baab ka izafa (addition of a new chapter in the country’s history)”, the Bengaluru-based daily Salar writes on the election of Droupadi Murmu as the 15th President of India and the first-ever tribal President, stating that it is moment of joy and celebration for the entire country. It points out that a month ago, when the BJP-led NDA had declared Murmu’s candidature it was virtually certain that India is now going to get its first tribal woman President. The ruling alliance’s announcement jolted the Opposition and split its ranks, stumping even the Trinamool Congress that had first proposed Yashwant Sinha as the joint Opposition’s Presidential nominee. As Murmu hails from Odisha, which would see a President from the state for the first time, the ruling Biju Janata Dal rallied behind her with full force. The ruling camp put the Opposition in “political and moral dilemmas” by naming Murmu for the Rashtrapati Bhavan, the editorial says. The Opposition still sought to campaign enthusiastically for Sinha, which “shows the beauty of Indian democracy”, it notes. “This is however disappointing that like always the government and the Opposition could not work out a consensus in favour of a Presidential face,” it says.

With Murmu taking charge of the country’s highest constitutional office, a new chapter will be added to India’s story on the 75th anniversary of Independence, the daily writes. “The country’s tribal communities have traversed a long political trajectory, their accomplishments are no less…When we see a tribal woman as the country’s First Citizen it is a new India. Our Constitution-framers had imagined a holistic India that could see representation of every section at top levels. Besides making the country’s 12 crore tribal people proud, Murmu’s election will be inspirational for them. In light of the Constitution’s endless possibilities, the time has come to press ahead with the movement for empowerment,” it says. “The message of Murmu’s elevation to the country’s highest office should reach everywhere. The moment should not remain merely symbolic. The new President will also have to ensure that it becomes enduring. The world is going to see a new face of India’s tremendous diversity.”

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Roznama Rashtriya Sahara

Referring to Chief Justice of India N V Ramana’s concerns over the functioning of media, especially electronic and social media, the multi-edition Roznama Rashtriya Sahara, in its editorial on July 24, writes that media is considered to be the fourth pillar of democracy, so its malfunctioning can derail democracy. CJI Ramana’s anguish over the state of the country’s media is thus appropriate and sobering, it says. The edit quotes the CJI as saying while delivering a speech at a Ranchi event that “We are seeing the media running kangaroo courts, at times on issues even experienced judges find difficult to decide. Ill-informed and agenda-driven debates on issues involving justice delivery are proving to be detrimental to the health of democracy. Biased views being propagated by media are affecting the people, weakening democracy, and harming the system” and that “Print media still has a certain degree of accountability, whereas electronic media has zero accountability even as social media is worse”.

The daily notes that democracy is prized by sensible people in democratic as well as undemocratic countries. Referring to Bouazizi’s self-immolation in Tunisia that catalysed the Jasmine Revolution there and the wider pro-democracy Arab Spring in several autocratic countries across Middle East and North Africa in 2011, it points out that democracy could still not fructify in these countries. “This is our good fortune that India is a democratic country and most of its people are pro-democracy thanks to their observation and understanding in which media has played a key role. In recent years, however, a shift in the functioning of media has taken place…which begs the question whether people are changing or a changing media is impacting them given the point that divisive programming has become more popular than those that pitch for unity and mirror reality,” it states. This situation could only change when common people would exercise better judgment when exposed to such biased reports and shows. This also puts an onus on judiciary to play the crucial role of a watchdog, it says. Welcoming the CJI’s critique of media, the edit adds, “It may be hoped that the courts could guide that section of media which likes to play the police, prosecutor and judge at once.”

Addressing another event recently, at the Rajasthan Assembly, CJI Ramana had also said that a strong parliamentary democracy “demands strengthening the Opposition as well” and that there used to be “mutual respect” between the government and the Opposition earlier, but the Opposition space was now “diminishing”.



In its July 25 editorial, the New Delhi edition of Inquilab highlights President Murmu’s abiding interest in education. Noting the vital role played by education in shaping the new President’s remarkable journey, it says that as a tribal girl hailing from a remote village of Odisha’s backward Mayurbhanj district she pursued her studies against all odds and was the first to go to college from her belt. She then became a school teacher. After stepping into politics, she became a councillor, MLA, minister and then Jharkhand governor, even as she faced personal tragedies losing her husband and two sons. “One aspect of President Murmu’s journey from Mayurbhanj district to the Rashtrapati Bhavan that needs to be highlighted is her enduring commitment to education. It would have taken great courage for a tribal girl at that time to step out of her village after completing middle school studies to pursue higher education in Bhubaneswar. And she maintained her commitment to education afterwards through her calling as a teacher. She left a deep imprint of her dedicated teaching and affection on her students and colleagues,” the editorial notes. It says that Murmu later sold her land to set up a residential school in Paharpur village in memory of her deceased husband and sons, which offers free education and accommodation to poor children. “In light of this background, in her presidency Murmu is expected to ensure that the government focuses on improving the condition of many schools across the country which have been in dire straits in absence of teachers, funds and basic infrastructure.”

Urdu Times

An editorial page column, “Aajkal (Nowadays)”, by Farooq Ansari in the Mumbai-based Urdu Times on July 24 comments on the case of the fact-checking website Alt News’s co-founder Mohammed Zubair, who has been granted interim bail by the Supreme Court in six cases filed against him in Uttar Pradesh for allegedly hurting religious sentiments through his tweets. The apex court also clubbed all these FIRs and transferred them to the Delhi police while disbanding the UP government’s Special Investigation Team (SIT) for investigations against Zubair. Ansari writes that a “strange tragedy is playing out in the country wherein fake has an upper hand over fact”. “If a day is declared as night by the powers-that-be, then concede it, otherwise expressing dissent may land you in trouble and get you sedition charges and jail,” he states, pointing out that journalist Zubair made efforts to present the truth and had to face multiple FIRs that pushed him to the brink in a scramble to secure bail. “We cannot suspect the functioning of judiciary because if lower courts allegedly deliver injustice, then higher judiciary make amends and uphold justice. So we have confidence and trust in our judicial system, and which is how the Muslim community is getting on with their lives. Zubair highlighted Nupur Sharma’s hate speech, which vitiated the country’s communal atmosphere and dented its image across the globe, but she continues to be free. However, it was Zubair who was charged with spreading hate, booked and sent to jail,” the column states. Referring to the Haridwar “dharma sensad”, where incendiary speeches were given targeting Muslims and calling for violence against them, it questions whether those were “an exercise in spreading love”. The write-up says the community should not be disheartened as “such a situation would not last for ever” and that “things will change for the better”. Noting that “ups and downs are part of life and history”, it says “truth will eventually prevail”.

First published on: 26-07-2022 at 01:25:09 pm
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