These are days of exciting journalism. These are times of danger for journalists. Whichever way you look at it, journalism today faces challenges the likes of which it has hardly been confronted with before. And remember that we speak at a point in history where transparency and accountability are putatively the underpinnings on which governments and societies operate.
Let us speak of the dangers first, some of which come from the journalists' community itself.
In India, Arnab Goswami screams and browbeats his guests regularly on his talk shows. That leaves you wondering about the degree to which journalism in the hands of people like him has mutated into unabashed haranguing of decent men and women on public television.
In the West, in these present times, media minds are exercised by what is happening in Venezuela or what is being done to it. The refrain is in promoting or upholding politics which leans toward supporting the illegitimacy represented by Juan Guaido and refusing to acknowledge the constitutionality which serves as the basis of the government headed by Nicolas Maduro. Western politicians attempting to speak up for Maduro are quickly silenced by anchors. Journalism thus becomes an embarrassing spectacle.
In Pakistan, an entire club of journalists cheerfully parrots the position of the government, which is how the country's ages-long conflict with neighbouring India is sustained. Those among the community ready to be discerning in their judgment on issues like the presence of the Jaish-e-Mohammad in Pakistan or the capture of an Indian air force pilot ejecting from his collapsing fighter jet will not be seen on television or read in newspapers.
Recall the beheading of the Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl in Karachi in 2002.
In Bangladesh, the old glory days of assertive journalistic trade unionism are a thing of the past. The media are divided right down the middle, with large numbers of journalists blurring the distinction between professional responsibilities and political partisanship. And, of course, there has been Section 57 of the ICT Act. Today it is the Digital Security Act journalists make a point of reminding the authorities of --- that it must not be permitted to curb media freedom.
These are the dangers. And there are others, those which are inflicted on journalism by outside forces, by the State, by individuals and groups only too willing too genuflect before the powers that be. And, of course, in a good number of instances, journalists have paid for their integrity, indeed for their probity, with their lives.
Here is the narrative.
The enterprising Gauri Lankesh was murdered in India not long ago, raising the stark, disturbing spectre of a society which is going through severe and negative convulsions where secular democracy and media freedom are slipping into unforeseen dangers.
As many as 114 sedition cases have been filed against journalists in India in recent times. That is not all. The ruling BJP has a team of 250 activists whose responsibility is to monitor content critical of the government, the objective being to go after those not willing to toe the ruling party line. Women journalists have been trolled in record numbers; and 142 journalists, according to figures provided by the government itself, have come under attack.
Arnab Goswami is free to berate critics of the government on his television talk shows and question their patriotism. In contrast, the respected and hugely brilliant Karan Thapar finds it difficult today to present a show on any television channel because the votaries of Hindutva do not want him anywhere.
Journalism in today's world therefore inhabits a landscape that is beginning to inspire indignation at best and fear at worst. Let us return to the West.
The current occupant of the White House sees nothing wrong in picking up arguments with reporters at his press conferences or elsewhere. His abrasive nature and serial untruths are upheld by the likes of now-departed press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders. The result is not merely the growth of a vociferously anti-media hysteria within the government but also a systematic propagation of a false theory called fake journalism.
Jim Acosta has his White House press card revoked, only to have it restored after the media come together loudly in his defence. The President intimidates journalists asking critical questions into silence. The New York Times and the Washington Post are, for the man in the White House, fake media. His so-called base picks up the chants, while Fox News cheerfully spews out manifest untruths.
The media in America are under assault, a situation unprecedented in the country's history. For their part, the media have little respect remaining for the man in the White House, which too is without precedent.
Let us take a brief look again at Pakistan, where the noted Dawn columnist Cyril Almeida has had his name placed on an exit control list. His crime? He has committed 'treason' by revealing details of a meeting between then ruling party leaders and military officials, the former berating the latter over their endless undermining of the country's elected government. The editor-in-chief of the Jang group of newspapers is in custody, in police remand, treated as a common criminal.
Away in the East, journalists in the Philippines is today in mortal danger from a president who has flung human rights to the winds through sanctioning the murder of suspected drug dealers. Unable to take criticism from the media, he goes for the jugular, which is when he orders the arrest of the globally prominent journalist Maria Ressa.
It is a scene right out of the pages of dictatorial conditions in Turkey, where a number of journalists have languished in prison on unsubstantiated charges of supporting a coup d'etat against the government of an increasingly authoritarian Recep Tayyep Erdogan.
Or consider Egypt, where the sparks of democracy were soon put out by Abdel Fatah al Sisi. Journalists have been among the people who have paid the price for their belief in political pluralism. They toe the line sketched by the regime or they go to jail or they leave the profession.
Or dwell on Rwanda, where President Paul Kagame has made sure that journalism either lives but by his leave or dies a slow, tortuous death.
Or observe Eritrea, where the once enterprising and idealistic government of President Issaias Afewerki is not willing to have the media carry out their professional responsibilities. He reduces them into impotence.
Or take a look at Thailand, where an entrenched dictatorship prevents journalists from questioning the legitimacy of Prayut Chan O Cha. Lese majeste remains a formidable barrier to journalism.
Or reflect on Myanmar, where the government in which Aung San Suu Kyi holds a seemingly powerful position will do nothing to have two journalists jailed for reporting on atrocities in Rakhine state freed to carry on doing their job.
Journalism in our times is fraught with danger. It is danger the magnitude of which can only be imagined.
Do we realize how quickly Jamal Khashoggi is being forgotten by the world? The Saudis have admitted his murder, but have stayed clear of telling us of the whereabouts of his remains, of the men who sliced him into pieces. The finger of suspicion has consistently been pointed at Mohammad bin Salman. The irony is that he is now welcomed in Islamabad by Imran Khan, who chauffeurs him from the airport to the official guest house; he is received in Delhi by Narendra Modi, who breaks with protocol to welcome him to his country with a hug; he talks to Xi Jinping in Beijing, who discusses business deals with him.
Jamal Khashoggi is thus forgotten.
Forgotten too are the anti-corruption crusaders Daphne Caruana Galizia of Malta and Anna Politkovskaya of Russia.
And yet Khashoggi, Galizia and Politkovskaya remain emblematic of the courage-filled enterprise that is journalism. In dying at the hands of faceless enemies, Bangladesh's Manik Chandra Saha, Meherun Runi and Golam Mostofa Sarwar Shagor --- and so many others --- have left behind the powerful message that the truth or an unearthing of it matters, despite the risks.
In our times, through his powerful presence in the field of global journalism, John Pilger has systematically and ruthlessly exposed the machinations of the world's powerful nations in attempting to gain access --- and getting it --- to the resources, natural as well as political, of such nations as Indonesia and Chile.
Even so, the casualties overwhelm us.
Article 19 would have us know that in 2017, 78 journalists were killed worldwide and 326 were imprisoned by governments on a variety of charges.
And, yes, in the past decade --- again in an era of what is touted as democracy --- more than 300 journalists have been murdered in forty-plus countries.
There are all the other dangers, or call them a sinister reality which has been corroding the vibrant nature of journalism.
It is that over the years, with embedded journalism becoming irritatingly fashionable (read the Gulf Wars), the media have become captive to corporate culture. The nouveau riche, especially in developing nations, cheerfully go into the media business, hire journalists with thick salary packages and then just as easily dump them.
Faux journalism has helped these parvenus to derive benefits from governments in shady crony-related deals. Media freedom has meanwhile suffered. Politicians driven to indignation by reports on television have complained to the management, which has been prompt in firing the intrepid reporters behind the findings aired on the small screen.
Partisan journalism has seen a vitiating of the atmosphere. In the process, journalism has been left with a bloodied nose.
This is the story, or part of it, of journalism in the world we live in today.
Yet the larger tale is out there, which journalists everywhere keep trying to enlighten the world with ---
Truth must be spoken to power, for when truth goes missing or courage shrinks into a cowering image of fear, injustice gets the upper hand.