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US Senator Praises Indian Journalist Rana Ayyub's Investigative Reporting

Rana Ayyub has made her mark by reporting on the 2002 Gujarat communal riots in her book Gujarat Files: Anatomy of a Cover Up in 2016. Her on-ground investigative reports showed how the state government failed to react in time to stop the violence which led to over 1,000 fatalities, a majority of whom were Muslims.

Rana Ayyub
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A prominent US Senator has expressed support for Indian journalist Rana Ayyub, noting that her work is driven by a sense of purpose and a love for her country and the ideals for which it stands.

All praises for Ayyub

In a statement on Thursday, Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy said, “Rana Ayyub is an award-winning Indian journalist who has courageously reported on religious violence, extrajudicial killings, and other matters of public interest in India.”

“Her important work is driven by a sense of purpose and a love for her country and the ideals for which it stands. Yet she faces online harassment and trolling, death threats, and baseless government retaliation for her reporting," Leahy said. 

"Despite the immense pressure to silence her by government officials who should be protecting her, she continues to expose the abuses of those in power,” the Senator from Vermont added.

Also Read | Why Declining Press Freedom Is Nobody’s Concern In India

Attacks on press freedom

Citing the Committee to Protect Journalists, Leahy said that in 2022 alone at least 38 journalists were killed, 294 were imprisoned, and 64 are missing for simply doing their job. He added that countless others faced intimidation, harassment, legal persecution, and threats. Leahy further noted that freedom of expression is the cornerstone of democracy and in its absence, the fundamental differences between a democratic state and an authoritarian regime disappear.

“Throughout my 48 years in the Senate, I have often been reminded that we each have a responsibility to defend press freedom and amplify the work of journalists who shine a light on corruption, injustice, discrimination, and impunity,” he said.

“We must stand up for freedom of expression and the rights of journalists, so Rana Ayyub and her brave colleagues around the world can do their essential work without fear of retribution,” Leahy said.

Also Read | From Freedom Fighter To Covid Warrior: How Indian Journalists Fight To Change Social Landscape

Ayyub persecuted by Indian authorities

According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, Ayyub is an Indian investigative journalist, with a Washington Post column, a Substack newsletter, and a Twitter presence with an audience of 1.5 million.

In October 2022 the Enforcement Directorate filed a charge sheet against her under the anti-money laundering law, alleging that she utilised publicly raised funds of Rs 2.69 crore for herself and also contravened the foreign contribution law.

Ayyub has said the funds raised by her for Covid-19 support were used with the sole aim of helping people in "dire need". The Ministry of External Affairs has previously said that authorities in India act against violations of law strictly in accordance with established judicial processes. It has also said that labelling such legal actions as persecution for activism is misleading and unacceptable.

Trolls, threats on social media

Renowned journalist Rana Ayyub has made her mark by reporting on the 2002 Gujarat communal riots in her book Gujarat Files: Anatomy of a Cover Up in 2016. Ayyub’s on-ground investigative reports showed how the state government had failed to react in time to stop the violence which led to over 1,000 fatalities, the majority of whom were Muslims.  

Also Read | Trolling, Abuse, Harassment: What Press Freedom Looks Like For Women Journalists In India

Ayyub continues to be a critic of the current BJP government, a fact that makes her highly unpopular among certain sections of the social media and an easy target for trolls. Studies show that Ayyub is one of the most abused Indian woman journalist on Twitter. The regular rape and death threats in social media today shape the mundane experience of journalists like Ayyub.

(With inputs from PTI)

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