The License to Criticise
A letter from the Editor
Hope all is well. Writing a short note that I hope you will take in the spirit in which it was written.
As you know we started The Citizen several years ago for two main reasons: 1) to keep independent and free journalism alive under the sustained and increasing attack; and 2) we did not have the finances to start a print publication as digital was more affordable.
At the beginning I called in on favours from friends, and some others who just stepped up for the cause, and we collected what might seem a paltry number to anyone in the media business but allowed us to start The Citizen.
Over the years we have been sounding friends and readers at times for financial support, especially when our bank account is empty and we have just a month or three months at the most to survive. This is one of those occasions but while drafting appeals, with the entire young team on the task a couple of things struck me that I am sharing with you.
One, we keep hearing from everyone about how ‘godi’ the media is, how it has lost its independence, how independent media is over or dying; how the big bucks media - print and television- is distorting facts but has acquired all the information air waves; how the media is irresponsible; how you wish there were more alternatives etc etc.
And yet no one —except the very (few) generous ones who care— pays to help alternative media survive. While many digital platforms have managed political and corporate funding, we in The Citizen are clear that we will not accept either as these are precisely the controls we will not work with. Having been in the profession for decades I have seen it all - the visor like grip political parties and corporations acquire over media houses, and then bring in the governments through the back door. Now of course through the front door with the red carpet laid out.
Journalism is by its very definition an independent watchdog that needs a free democratic environment to thrive. News gathering is a skill that is learnt, as are ethics and responsibilities that go with the job. The Citizen has taken care through these tumultuous times to not sink into a vortex where besides questioning the government which we do on a daily basis as the profession demands, we are not dragged into targeting and hurling abuse and accusations. We question the system and raise the issues, not individuals.
Which is why I wonder why we in this country insist on receiving news for free. Or at a discount. More so in these tough times when the survival of free media is at stake, where money comes with strings attached, and all this makes us turn to you - the common citizen. As your support comes with no strings attached, and it is the mainstay for us.
We have not fixed amounts, we are happy for you to decide the amount that you are comfortable with. But I seriously think that if you do not then you also lose the license to criticise the media for not doing enough, or for not doing it at all. The Citizen needs funds to just report, to ensure that our reporters are paid —even as the host of fabulous experts who write for us do it without charge— and that we are able to bring you the news as it is, not as some might want it to be.