Arnab’s arrest is unacceptable; Poses danger to media existence!

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(MS Shanker)

Republic TV’s Editor-in-Chief Arnab Goswami’s arrest is not only illegal, but just unacceptable.  This is evident from the Court’s verdict.  It questioned the Mumbai Police how they can open the 2018 case without their permission. The court’s rejection for police custody is also a slap on Mumbai Police.

What makes every journalist worth his salt feel sad and shaken is the way the Mumbai police so brazenly went to arrest a reputed news channel editor.  A posse of policemen, in dozens wielding AK-47 and other assault rifles, indeed should send shivers down the spines of every worthy journalist who dare to speak out against people in power.  If this can happen to an established name in India media like Arnab Goswami, then what about others who are working in counryside?  If the Courts failed to check such police brutality against a honest journalists, does it not become a precedent for enthusiastic cops of other states to act against less known journos?

Why I feel ashamed and sad for being in the profession for the past three decades is because of the stoic silence among my own colleagues across the country.  One could have seen couple of self-styled and Left-partis backed so called journalists outfits coming out onto streets to protests, if a journalist was arrested by the police for his or her alleged links with the outlawed Maoists.  Award-wapasee gangs too might have also joined the chorus.  But, what happened to them?  Why did they choose to remain mute?  Was it because, Arnab Goswami has emerged as a true ‘nationalist’ journo?

What was more shameful was when entire nation watched the way Arnab Goswami was picked up from his residence by the alleged ‘encounter’ specialist cop.  He stormed into his house with dozens of cops, wielding AK-47 rifles.  Such a scene might not have been witnessed even in case of hardcore terrorist arrests across the country, including in Jammu and Kashmir.  But, Goswami was treated worse than a terrorist, what really should hurt honest journalists as it sends shivers down the spines as they may be next if they dare speak out against the people in power.  Should that be allowed?  I don’t know why the learned battery of lawyers engaged by the Republic TV failed to raise in the court.  The defence lawyers could have asked the judge how he wishes to view Arnab’s arrest.

The context — and there is one — is irrelevant. The history of the deteriorating relationship between Goswami and the Mumbai police and the Maharashtra government does not matter. The quality of his journalism, of course, always a subjective call, but matters even less. Whether or not we like Goswami and his style of journalism matters the least.

No one, including journalists, is above the law, agreed.  But, the operative term is the law. Everything needs to be done according to the law. In this case, for instance, Goswami could have been summoned (he is sure to have complied with the summons). Reports suggest that his family was being manhandled, If that’s true (Of course, the videos out in public domain) only exacerbate the wrong. None should ignore the public support for Goswami has poured in from all quarters, and reactions have been immediate and spontaneous. Although, The Editors Guild has apparently issued a strong statement, yet it was too late. And several political leaders, including the Home Minister and the information and broadcasting minister, have condemned the attack on “press freedom” and a “free press”.

Good that they have taken a position, though belated. Should Courts remain mute spectators for misuse of the police by the greedy parties in power?  Time has come for the Supreme Court to direct the Union government to act against erring Maharashtra government.  Only such an initiative repose confidence in judiciary.  Similarly, the stoic silence of the Centre over unprecedented developments in Maharashtra, also raise doubts over administrative or ‘good governance’ abilities of the NDA government headed by none other than Narendra Modi, who enjoys the people’s confidence.

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