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Arnab's arrest and media freedom

Arnabs arrest and media freedom

Arnab Goswami at Alibag Court, Image credit: ANI

It would not be logical by any stretch to compare journalists Arnab Goswami and Siddique Kappan; perhaps it would even be quite crude too. Siddique has been languishing in the prison of Yogi Adityanath's UP, for having gone to enquire about the situation following the gang rape of a Dalit woman in Hathras. Maharashtra police arrested Arnab Goswami not for having stood for media freedom, but for an offence of abetting suicide of architect Anvay Naik and his mother, after denying payment for the work done in his studio. Although the suicide note had mentioned his name, using the political influence accruing from the BJP chief minister Devendra Fadnavis, Arnab got discharged from prosecution; against this Anvay Naik's wife and mother filed a re-probe and it is in this connection that he was arrested. No doubt, the animosity and vendetta brewing between the Shiv Sena government and Arnab may have driven the TV anchor's hasty arrest. After all, the Shiv Sena has graduated from the same school in misuse of power.

It is equally curious, if not more so than the step by Maharashtra government that the journalists' body, Editors Guild and certain mainstream media felt a shock and awe they did not feel when many young individuals working as journalists in Delhi and other parts of the country, were jailed on charges of sedition. Several prominent media wrote editorials portraying the police action against financial offence and abetment to suicide, as a government onslaught on democracy and the freedom to criticise. They demand Arnab's immediate release and a fair enquiry. But those who scream now on behalf of Arnab are those who had stood passively, or colluded with the establishment, when a media organisation entered into an unholy nexus with the regime and evolved into a lie factory. When Arnab's Republic TV branded numerous social activists as traitors and anti-nationals and threw them to the mercy of the regime and far right mobs, none of these media entities had any intuition about 'freedom of speech'.

Figures tell us that like Siddique Kappan, there are over 55 mediapersons, behind bars and booked in different states for having published anti-government reports. None of these cases had the name of Arnab Goswami. Perhaps Arnab did not have to bide time in corridors of law courts waiting for justice. Many, right from union home minister Amit Shah upto every frontal outfits of the sangh parivar, have now come out shedding crocodile tears over the attack on 'media freedom'. They are all now reminded afresh about the Emergency. Over the last six years, the country has been witnessing a plan in action of suppressing every political voice that has either disagreed with, or oppposed the Narendra Modi government and its politics. It was for reporting incidents during Delhi riots objectively that two television channels - 'MediaOne' and 'Asianet' - had faced a ban, albeit temporarily.

Many media entities and mediapersons who stood against fascism, are now silenced. Ours is a country where media activity is under severe stress and sustained torture by government agencies and legislative houses. And current newsrooms have turned into a space with little room for the voice of those branded traitors under and hunted down by the regime. Arnab Goswami is a veritable hero of such a typical fascist newsroom. A few business houses, persuaded by humanitarian considerations, were constrained to state in public that they were stopping advertisements to his channel when they could not stand any longer the hate propaganda of Arnab and his team. On another level, even advertisements that proclaimed love cutting across religions and friendship had to face undeclared ban and calls for boycott. At this time of majoritarian bellicosity, one can understand why the sangh quarters come out in defence of Arnab.; but others who come out under political motives to defend Arnab and to protest against stifling voices of dissent, are strengthening not media freedom, but a servile model of journalism typical of fascist era.

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