Indian journalist Rana Ayyub, an outspoken critic of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s anti-Muslim rhetoric and policies, on Wednesday night received the prestigious John Aubuchon award conferred on her by the National Press Club of Washington DC, the Club’s highest honour for press freedom.
Ayyub, a columnist with the Washington Post, has been facing harassment and threats for her critical reporting of the Modi government. The Post issued a full-page advertisement earlier this year in support of Ayyub, saying “the free press is under attack in India”.
After her name was announced in July 2022, Ayyub dedicated the award to her colleagues who are languishing in different prisons across the country.
“Dedicating this to my colleagues Mohammad Zubair, Siddique Kappan, and Asif Sultan incarcerated for speaking truth to power,” she said.
In her acceptance speech on Wednesday, Rana Ayyub said that there is no free press in India anymore. “I’m here, trying to feel less alone at a time I feel very lonely” she said
“I happen to be a Muslim and a woman. How dare I speak? … Thank you for making me feel less alone & isolated.” She further added.
Ayyub, 37, began as an investigative journalist and wrote a book accusing PM Modi of being complicit in deadly sectarian violence in Gujarat in 2002, when he was state premier.
Other journalists have also complained of increased harassment under Modi, whose government has been accused of trying to silence critical reporting.
Media rights group Reporters Without Borders places India at a lowly 142 in its World Press Freedom Index, saying that under Modi, “pressure has increased on the media to toe the Hindu nationalist government’s line”.
“The coordinated hate campaigns waged on social networks against journalists who dare to speak or write about subjects that annoy Hindutva (hardline Hindu ideology) followers are terrifying and include calls for the journalists concerned to be murdered,” according to RSF.
“The campaigns are particularly violent when the targets are women.”