Journalist Rizwana Commits Suicide; Her Article Highlights Difficulties of Being Hijabi Journalist

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Rizwana Tabssum.

Clarion India

VARANASI- Rizwana Tabassum, who was working with many prominent news portals, allegedly committed suicide on Monday at her residence in Varanasi. She left behind a suicide note which blames Samajwadi leader Shamim Nomani for her suicide.

27-years-old Rizwana Tabassum used to do journalism for The Wire Hindi, The Quint, Khabar Lahariya, BBC, Newsclick Hindi, Asiaville Hindi etc.

Her father filed an FIR against Nomani and the police arrested him for the abetment to suicide.

“The police went to her place after a call from her family. Her body has been sent for postmortem and an FIR has been launched. The complaint has been launched on the basis of the note found in her room,”  said Ashok Pandey, head of local police.

According to her brother Mohammed Azam, she had been coordinating with ration delivery work with a trust, along with Nomani. And he rubbished any possibility of romantic relationship of Rizwana with Nomani. A friend of Rizwana said that she had been upset for past week, reports Newslaundry.

Recently on the occasion of World Press Freedom, She wrote for Youth ki Aawaz on the press freedom describing her experiences of doing journalism wearing Hijab . She writes about her experience of reporting communal tension from the ground. She shares the experience of reporting the ABVP students protests against the appointment of a Muslim professor for Sanskrit in Banaras Hindu University in November last year. The article is translated from Hindi as follows:

I was abused for reporting wearing a Hijab at Banaras Hindu University

May 3, 2020, Youth ki Awaaz

“Today, May 3rd is observed globally as World Press Freedom day. Since 1993, following UNESCO’s meeting, UNO declared May 3rd as Press Freedom Day.

Media is being considered as democracy’s fourth pillar. But even on this pillar, the attack is nothing less. The power and influence of media scares people who are anti-social and wrong doers up to keep it in their custody. For doing it they use many tricks. Such people sometimes try to suppress the media by using their power positions and reporters are also threatened with intimidation to suppress the news. This way the freedom to express is abolished.

So May 3rd, is being observed as Press Freedom day, to make people aware of the importance of its existence, along with it, to make governments attentive to the existence of media. This time, the motto is ‘Journalism without Fear and Favor.’

Reporting from Rural Areas is Challenging

Is journalism without fear possible these days? Can someone do journalism without bias for months and years? Isn’t the answering a bit difficult? the answer is difficult and it is more difficult for those who do uninterrupted ground reporting from rural areas.

The journalists whom we see on TV are mostly celebrated and followed as journalists. But did you ever think how does news reach these journalists? Regional journalist! Being regional journalist is an ordinary thing? not at all.

When you do journalism with all your Eeman, then a lot of people will come against you and your work starts getting difficult.

“Security guards of BHU threatened me”

It is a matter from last year November, BHU’s professor Firoze Khan’s appointment evolved in to a ferocious protest there. Firoze Khan’s appointment to the Sanskrit department irked the students of the department and they started protesting against Firoze Khan in the premises of BHU.

I wanted to talk to the students who are on dharna. I reached there at around 3 pm, the students who were at dharna was sloganeering against Firoze Khan and Muslims. After standing there for some more time I spoke to a student, “My name is Rizwana Tabassum, I am a freelance journalist, I am doing a story for The Quint, I wish to talk to you people.”

That student didn’t say anything. After some time, two female security guards who were appointed there came to me and said, “these students told us to “ask that girl to leave from here”, or else something else will happen with her. You please leave this place, we don’t want any tension.” After hearing this, I again looked at the students, they were addressing Muslims with abusive words. I was wearing Hijab. They started hurling abuses at me as well, I was alone there, without reporting I came back.

Had to return empty handed, without a report

That day, for not being able to do that report, I am sad not only for this, the people are talking bad about Muslims and I couldn’t work seeing the hatred in their minds, but I was sad that the minds of those students are filled with venom and it is spilling out.

From Banaras Hindu University, my home is in around 14 kilometers distance. You have spent on the attempt to work but you couldn’t accomplish it, is disappointing.

A freelance journalist is paid only for the reports they do. They will not get much money when they go for reporting a story and return, again go for another story and return without a story.

For a local journalist there is struggle to face at every front. Be it in case of work, interacting with different sorts of people, and economically as well. Apart from all these, when there is a problem, the reporter has to face it all alone, no organization stands by them.”

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