JMI Alumni Neha Dixit honoured with International Press Freedom Award

In these tough times, where everything is sensationalized and based on half-baked knowledge, read how Neha Dixit who recently received the CPJ- Press Freedom Award managed to overcome these obstacles with integrity and hard work.

Tom Stoppard once said that- I still believe that if your aim is to change the world, Journalism is a more immediate short-term weapon. And one of the living examples of this is the eminent Neha Dixit, an Indian Investigative Journalist who was awarded the Internal Press Freedom Award 2019 by The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ). The award ceremony was followed by benefit dinner on 21 November in the Grand Hyatt, New York city. To do justice with words, Neha has not only worked but endured for almost 12 years in the field of Investigative Journalism. Graduated in English Literature, she pursued a Masters in Convergent Journalism from the AJK Mass Communication Research Centre, Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi. In her award receptance speech, she says-

No girl from my family had gone to another city to study Journalism. It was not seen as a “decent job” for “good girls”. Then there were years with sexism in the workplace, censorship, and editors who called me a “little girl” and told me not to do back of the beyond bleeding heart stories. There were endless follow up on legal cases, death threats, rape threats complete with descriptions of how it should be conducted on my body.

For her pathbreaking work in the field of investigative journalism, there are several legal cases ensued including criminal defamation. Regardless of the barriers, she has extensively worked across various platforms including Print, Television and Online. In the face of fearless journalism, she has blatantly criticized the issues of sexism, tribal communities, and labor rights violation. She has talked against the mainstream media by voicing her opinions on the otherwise marginalized sections of the society such as the Muslims and the socio-economically powerless. Her writings against sectarian politics and corporate political nexus have had national and international impact. She is the first journalist to unmask the Right-Wing Religious Fundamentalists on their regular involvement in the trafficking of tribal girls and ideological manipulation. However, it does not come to a surprise that behind this accomplished face was a history of copiously struggled but strongly surpassed tragedies starting with crossing family boundaries to pursue her goals and then suffering to find her voice amidst the chaos.

I first met Neha Dixit at a talk on Investigative Journalism at the Indian Habitat Centre in the month of August. I approached her and we had a conversation in which I requested her to guide me on how to go ahead with the course. She shared her experience, provided me with her contact details. She was extremely welcoming, humble and kind. I could feel and relate to her emotions when I saw her award receptance speech. Also, my first story on ‘how Dalits from Lalitpur become bonded labourers in Delhi’ which got published in The Wire was inspired by reading her stories and articles as recommended by my professor. I went through her blog and tried to be as good as her. As a woman Journalist who wants to do investigative stories, I strongly look up to her. – Bhumika Saraswati, Student, Convergent Journalism, MCRC, JMI.

While on one hand Journalism is dying a slow death because of the rise in fake news culture, prejudice, and heated arguments on irrelevant issues, on the other hand there are some people who are constantly working towards making Journalism a fair ground that not only exposes the vices of the social, legal, and political institutions but presents a true account of the events across the globe based on real facts and unbiased treatment. It is not only disorganized gossip but meaningful, trustworthy, and relevant. Umanath Chhetri expresses his views on the same- “Sensitive and unbiased journalism is the need of the hour. It’s so much of a propaganda these days.” (Student, Film Appreciation, MCRC, JMI.)
But what is the cost of this journalism in the modern times? Not much, just severe attacks on your sense of patriotism, authenticity, and credibility. All of this eventually followed up by disgusting social media trolls leading to death threats and public attacks. Above that if you are a woman, you can expect your character under evaluation combined with rape threats and of course then there is creative millennial lingo, wittily directed to disgrace and humiliate them. For example, the trending use of the word “presstitutes” that intends to attack journalists who cite impartial and predetermined views that is misleading and fundamentally wrong, is nowadays used for anyone who is not supportive of the mainstream ideology. They are subjected to intense public scrutiny and pressure. This not only discourages them but strongly disparages the work of independent press.
“In an age of growing authoritarianism and repression of freedom and democracy we see the very notion of facts and fairness being called into question.” – Laurene Powell, Founder of the Emerson Collective.

Now, while these journalists protect the citizens right to truth, there ought to be someone who protects their right of speech and expression. As a savior, The Committee to Protect Journalists is an independent, non-profit organization intending to promote press freedom worldwide. With 40 experts around the world, CPJ reports on violations in repressive countries, conflict zones, and established democracies alike. It mobilizes the network of correspondents to take immediate action whenever the press freedom violations occur.

AJK Mass Communication Research Center
Image Credits:

Thus, CPJ not only celebrates their courage but defends them against the authoritative regimes and tyrannical forces of exploitation. The intention to organize these events is to reward the courageous journalists across the globe who as a matter of fact, actually risk the lives of themselves and their families in order to provide reports that are informative, powerful, and significant.
We’re staring at a society that is functioning without reliable news and information and it’ll probably only get worse. It’s not unprecedented but the effects of problematic journalism are more tangible today. Every day, there’s a conscious effort to steer us away from real problems. So, we need to make a conscious effort to steer right back to them. Ravish wrote in his book if you say you are not an objector, you are ranged against democracy. It’s literally the simplest ideology to live by. – Abu Talha Mujibi, Student, Film Appreciation, MCRC, JMI.

Nisha Bothra , M.A. English, Jamia Millia Islamia

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