It was in Mumbai sometimes in the late seventies. A car driving bad had hit someone and fled. My friends and I were nearby and swung into action, taking the injured to the nearest hospital, where we knew a doctor. “Hurry, leave the place immediately,’ the doctor cautioned, “we shall take care of the patient and admit him.” I later learnt that Samaritans had no place and we will end up with endless court appearances as a witness. The situation was so then and is still the same.
Things similar have happened several times, whistle blowers bumped off and witnesses harassed. UIDAI had filed a complaint against the newspaper Tribune, its editor and the journalist who laboured to investigate the data breach of Aadhar details. Such data breach was earlier apprehended by the opposition parties and was stoutly defended by the UIDAI chief, Nandan Nilkeni as well as several ministers. For as low as Rs.500/- one could obtain all personal details has led to a perceptible fear in the minds of public.
Rather than ordering an investigation over the veracity of the complaint, the police have promptly filed an FIR, First Information Report, against the journalist and the editor, which is bizarre. Such knee-jerk reactions would only discourage people from coming out with truths and information and could deter solutions.
I also recall the life of a harried journalist, who had to spend considerable energy, time and money, appearing from one court to another, when he daringly bought a girl in a ‘bazaar’ and proved that girls are bought and sold like commodities in India. He was slapped with human trafficking charges! The case also revealed as to what could lie in store for daredevilry in journalism.
Witch hunting of journalists must stop, this FIR withdrawn and press freedom retained. It will be an act of maturity for the government to study the report, evaluate and quickly take remedial action.