Rana Ayyub, an investigative journalist, experiences threats and intimidation for her work in India – but she continues to press on. In recent months she has spoken out against growing censorship in Indian news organizations and a media crackdown by the country’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Ayyub gained prominence and reknown for her undercover reporting work that culminated in her book, Gujarat Files: Anatomy of a Coverup, which investigates mob riots in 2002 that culminated in the deaths of more than 1,000 Muslims in India.
Ayyub posed as an American film student and used secret cameras while meeting with sources and powerful officials, including Modi. Her recorded conversations raised questions about officials’ culpability in the violence.
Last year, the book earned Ayyub the Most Resilient Global Journalist Award delivered at the Peace Palace in the Hague.
Like many women journalists, Ayyub has been subject to violent threats for her work. For some, those threats have become real. Her friend, Gauri Lankesh, was going to publish Ayyub’s reporting on the Gujarat riots. Lankesh’s newspaper in southwest India often reported on right-wing extremism. On September 5, 2017, gunmen assassinated Lankesh outside her home.
Ayyub says she receives frequent rape and death threats online in response to her reporting. According to the Hindustan Times, in the course of one week, Ayyub had been targeted in more than 2,500 abusive tweets.
In August Ayyub told VOA, “I certainly do feel that the women journalists, should report the threats that they face every day. I do not dismiss them as being harmless because I have seen many colleagues losing their lives by just dismissing the threats that come their way.”
Reporter Shreya Ila Anasuya wrote about the dangers for women journalists in India for GenderIt.org: “Women journalists have faced a range of physical violence while on the job, from being harassed, beaten, and molested, to being driven out of their homes and being killed. From Khabar Lahariya to Malini Subramaniam to Gauri Lankesh, the systematic targeting of women journalists has been severe. There has been some coverage of the disproportionate and gendered nature of this violence, and concerns about the severe way in which it threatens the existence of a free press in India.”
Ayyub says “the dangers she faces will not stop her from continuing to report”, and that “some of the biggest investigations in the country are being done by women.”
She told VOA, “This is the time to be a journalist. This is the time to shine.”
The Press Forward salutes Ayyub for her bravery and courage in reporting.