A Course in Survival, Designed Especially for Uttar Pradesh Journalists

Satire

A Course in Survival, Designed Especially for Uttar Pradesh Journalists

Illustration: Arati Gujar

The list of jobs that are safer than being a reporter in Uttar Pradesh grow longer by the day – lion-tamer and bomb-defuser are the latest additions. In the last week alone, three separate stories have emerged and they are enough to make us start writing an obituary for press freedom in Uttar Pradesh.

The most high-profile case has been of the freelance journalist Prashant Kanojia, who was being held by the UP police for posts he made on social media concerning Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath. Even as Kanojia, who was in custody since Saturday, was granted bail after the Supreme Court deemed that his detention was unconstitutional, the cycle repeated itself again. The editors and channel head of a Noida-based television news channel, namely Anuj Shukla, Anshul Kaushik, and Ishika Singh, were picked up by police for broadcasting allegedly defamatory content about Adityanath. But can we blame the cops? Haven’t UP journalists learnt their lessons yet? The CM is out of bounds. But it’s not just news about Adityanath that can get you in trouble, as an unnamed journalist in Shamli who was covering a train derailment learned to his dismay. What started out as coverage of a railway accident ended with him being assaulted by police officers, who he claimed stripped him and urinated upon him while he was in their lockup.

Such is life for the fourth estate in unparalleled Uttar Pradesh. And there is no journalism school in the country that could prepare future scribes to face such conditions. You could scour the top institutes of learning in the country and still fail to find a single lecture on what to do when a policeman decides to treat you like a urinal. This is why UP needs to set up its own specialised journalist training school, one that teaches a different set of skills. Who cares about what the 5 Ws and 1 H are? And do you really need to learn about the inverted pyramid? The History of Journalism is not going to come to your rescue either.  

What would the syllabus of such an institute include, you ask? There will be classes dedicated to teaching students how to survive a night in a jail cell.

What the UP School of Journalism needs is none of this bookish gyaan. In fact, it needs to combine on-the-job training with trial-by-combat, ensuring budding reporters graduate from its chaotic environs as hardened media veterans. What would the syllabus of such an institute include, you ask? There will be classes dedicated to teaching students how to survive a night in a jail cell. Other electives will include learning which vital organs to protect in the event of a mob turning you into their punching bag, the fastest channels through which to apply for bail, and how to acquire a lawyer to represent you in defamation suits.

The prestigious students of the UP School of Journalism will be given a handguide. Subjects that are out of bounds are the CM’s office and anything to do with the administration. There will be a specialised course in Cow Rights Violation, which only the cream of the crop will be allowed to pursue. Guest lecturer Keanu Reeves will offer special classes on how to dodge bullets like Neo, for those who insist on pursuing what they foolishly call “real news”.     

Of course, the creation of such an institute of eminence would require a huge amount of resources, but can anyone name a better use for the gau cess being charged in the state? The need for such a journalism school is urgent, at least until UP gets a journalist protection law like the one introduced in Maharashtra two years ago, which made attacks on journalists and destruction of media property a non-bailable offence. Last September, UP Deputy CM Dinesh Sharma said that he would take up the matter of having a similar policy introduced in UP. Maybe Sharma did have that conversation with Adityanath, but with urgent matters of unveiling Lord Rama’s statues and touring other states for election rallies, the CM must have had his hands too full to work on restoring press freedom in his state. The life of a journalist continues to be a dangerous one in UP, so we must rely on the next best thing.

Let the journalistic Hunger Games begin!

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