Press freedoms have been shrinking exponentially in recent years in the world’s largest democracy under Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist government. But no one’s felt it more than India’s Muslims and other minorities—and the journalists reporting on them, like 37-year-old Rana Ayyub.
Perhaps the country’s most trolled and targeted journalist, Ayyub became the target of attack by haters in 2016 after she published an explosive investigation into the anti-Muslim pogrom that happened in a Modi-governed state in 2002. The Muslim investigative journalist is currently facing several baseless criminal charges, including one that accuses her of money laundering for collecting COVID-19–related donations.
In the massive country of 1.4 billion people, Muslims make up a whopping 200 million, but they increasingly face hate, violence, and state-sanctioned discrimination.
At the same time, journalists across the country reporting these events for the world are being jailed under anti-terror, sedition, and fake news laws. Last year, more journalists were murdered in India for their reporting than anywhere else in the world. On social media, trolling has given way to “judicial harassment” of journalists like Ayyub, which means they not only receive online hate for their reporting but can also get targeted by the government.
On April 8, Ayyub, spoke at a conference in Italy about the “mental agony” of being a journalist.
“A lot of my friends and well-meaning colleagues say, why don’t you take a step back, why don’t you just relax for your health,” she said. “The unfortunate bit is I don’t have the luxury of taking a step back. I have been accorded… a privilege that the young journalists in my country do not have; which is why I speak on their behalf as well.”
Besides her commitment to her work, Ayyub says she can’t leave India for more personal reasons: “Even given the choice, probably I will not leave. Because here is [where] I live with my family. I can’t leave. I can’t leave them because they have also been targeted by the government. ”
On the latest episode of VICE News Reports, Ayyub talks about the state of journalism in India.