David Usborne in conversation with Josy Joseph
David Usborne moved from being an investigative journalist with The Independent to a private investigating firm. He said that he had expected to become a Sherlock Holmes but instead became a “journalist on hire”, being paid by wealthy clients to investigate cases. But he uses his subjective discretion to choose cases that do not question journalistic ethics.
Josy Joseph encapsulated his view in a few sentences. “The kind of media censorship and fear that the current government has spread has not been seen in India since the days of the Emergency.” In the current environment, it has become increasingly difficult to do investigative journalism because of the persecution of whistleblowers. Josy said that days of “beat journalism” are over, where reporters had unfiltered access to corridors of power Sources have dried up because protection of such sources is becoming increasingly difficult. Persecution of individual reporters by the state have also increased and media companies do not support such individuals when they face litigation. Defamation is as big a form of censorship.
Corporate sponsorship of media and government censorship – together have played a role in diminishing the value of investigative journalism. Digital media houses that operate on a model of click based revenues are rehashing the wire news which discourages reporters to step out of the newsroom.
Josy closed the debate by saying that there is pool of young talent waiting for opportunities. It’s up to media companies to create environments that will enable independent reporting that is free of the encumbrances of government propaganda.