The murderous attack on the Editor of Indo Canadian Times, Mr. Tara Singh Hayer is an insult to humanity and an outrage against the freedom of press. It needs to be condemned in the strongest terms by every civilized person. The seventeen year old assailant did not fire six shots, out of which three hit Mr. Hayer in the arm, leg, and back, because of some sudden and grave provocation but as a result of a premeditated and meticulously calculated plan of action. The attack was meant to be fatal and it would have been fatal but for the protective intervention of the Providence.

Freedom of press is an inalienable feature of democracy. At no cost can it be allowed to be compromised or coerced into silence. It would be virtually suffocating and strangling democracy if reporters and editors were to function in a climate of fear, if they were to twist and distort facts in order to avoid a bullet here and a dagger there. The pity is that no Editor or Reporter can please everybody howsoever objective and truthful he may be in filing his stories.

Truth often is very painful and it can seriously hurt social images and material interests. It is not easy and for everybody to digest unpalatable and distasteful exposures and it is this factor that more than anything else makes journalists vulnerable to hotheaded egotists who abhor being exposed to the public eye. There are individuals that take offense over trifling’s and do not hesitate to take law into their own hands. There is no way for a journalist to know or anticipate how a particular individual would react to his story. Besides, his profession does not permit him to be governed by the reactions or sparks that his story may generate. He is required to faithfully carry out the obligations enjoined upon him by his job and his job is to report correctly.

Mr. Hayer, no doubt, is a controversial journalist. He has antagonised some people with his uninhibited approach in reporting events and covering personalities. But this is no ground for anyone to super cede the normal channels of redress and resort to jungle law. Journalists are not beyond or above law. They are required to operate strictly within the orbit of their professional code. They are expected to exercise utmost caution in making judgments. They scrupulously avoid conjectural or subjective interpretation of the events. They are fully accountable for every word of their story. They know full well that no transgression on their part would be condoned or allowed to go unchallenged.

It is true that journalists wield tremendous power and some of them may be tempted to misuse that power. It is also true that their victims may not have the necessary resources to vindicate their position and bring the erring journalists to the book. But bullet is no solution to this problem. There are other courses that can be adopted which may even prove more effective, Peaceful protests and public pressure have on many occasions compelled some very powerful journalists to tender an unqualified apology for their unethical actions.

If at all Mr. Hayer had committed some indiscretion, it did not merit a desperate remedy. It could easily be corrected through a democratic and perfectly legitimate process Mr. Hayer is no different from other members of his profession. Their task is very delicate and their path is all littered with pitfalls and brick bats. A little mistake, witting or unwitting can recoil dangerously as is very clear from what happened to him. Fortunately, he was not hit at any vital point and is stated to be in a stable condition. Whereas we pray for his speedy recovery, we, at the same time, strongly feel that a deterrent action against the assailant is absolutely necessary to make the profession of journalism a little more secure.

Article extracted from this publication >> September 2, 1988