Journalist, Senior Associate Editor of The Caravan Magazine and Humanity in Action Senior Fellow Roman Gautam finds that freedom of press and information are amongst the most important principles to a free society. He has spent years working as a journalist across South Asia, most notably as a magazine editor in Nepal and India, where his writing covers democracy and other issues affecting billions of people. This has long been a passion for him. In fact, Roman’s Action Project Understanding Edward Snowden in Nepal: Surveillance, Censorship and Online Freedom helped begin a dialogue on internet freedom in a society where the government has used their power over the internet to curtail social movements and unrest.
“A large part of my commitment to journalism stems from the belief that a free press can and must act as a bulwark against the excesses of state and majoritarian power.”
Roman’s interest in internationalism stems from his multi-cultural background and formative experiences at a United World College, where his studies were centered around service and international understanding. These same characteristics drew Roman to Humanity in Action. Since living and working in India, Roman has been reflecting upon the recent surge of Hindu nationalism in India and the implications it may have on the future of India. He recalls his time as a Fellow in Warsaw and the walks and lectures he participated in on the Holocaust. Seeing the rise of nationalism in India is haunting to Roman, as he thinks back to “what European Jews faced and how many of the precursors to the Holocaust exist in India today.” Through journalism, Roman hopes to fight “to make sure that the disturbing echoes between the European Jewish experience and the predicament of India’s minorities don’t get any louder than they already are.”
Roman’s Action Project: Understanding Edward Snowden in Nepal: Surveillance, Censorship and Online Freedom, mirrored these interests through a discussion between internet activists, lawyers and Internet Service Provider executives to better understand and coordinate responses to the threats to online freedom in Nepal. By sharing knowledge and ideas, activists were able to focus on new solutions to censorship in Nepal. Although many of these groups were fragmented going into the discussions, Roman hopes that they will be able to continue to work together in the future to make sure that basic freedoms are not being taken away from Nepali citizens.
There are lessons to be learned about the perils that democratic systems are facing, and the role that journalism can play in championing civil rights and accountable governance.
Today, Roman is drawing lessons and inspiration from his fellowship, particularly his brief but impactful education while in Warsaw on Poland’s battle for democracy. He hopes to address the “perils that democratic systems are facing, and the role that journalism can play in championing civil rights and accountable governance.”
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During the 2011 Warsaw Fellowship, our Fellows wrote daily blogs of their experiences during the Fellowship. Read their reflections here.