Arrest of the journalist should make us introspect!

Most times journalists come to the defence of fellow journalists whenever there is threat to freedom of the press. However, when Arnab Goswami, high profile editor of Republic TV was arrested for abetment of suicide of one Anvay Naik in 2018, the fraternity was divided over the kind of journalism he practiced and row over alleged rigging of the Television Rating Points.

In fact, to prove that his journalism was liked by the masses and advertisers were making a beeline for the channel, he often cited TRPs as evidence.

When Naik’s wife Akshata lodged a complaint against Goswami of ARG Outlier, Firoz Shaikh of Skimedia and Nitesh Sarda of Smart Work and arrests followed, there was a deep divide some calling that the arrests had been made in a criminal case relating to suicides and had nothing to do with journalism.

In this case opinion is squarely divided while some say this is a politically motivated case and others opine that it is a criminal case.

As expected, Goswami took no time in alleging that it was a political witch-hunt against him. Surely, this is a sad commentary on contemporary journalism.

Arnab Goswami is one of the most well known faces on television and enjoys considerable political clout. On November 11, he was granted interim bail by the Supreme Court and was advised to cooperate with the probe.

For him life has come full circle and the man who conducted media trials on many occasions by playing the role of judge, lawyer and plaintiff simultaneously,  consequently harming the institution of journalism has now to seek shelter under the freedom of press privilege.

Indeed, the arrest of the journalist was wrong as it sets a dangerous trend.  One may or not like the kind of journalism the man professed, but the State must act according to the established law-the journalist could have been summoned and not allegedly manhandled.  Freedom of press is not specifically mentioned in Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution and what is mentioned is only freedom of speech and expression.

In the Constituent Assembly debates it was made clear by Dr Ambedkar, Chairman of the Drafting Committee that freedom of expression of an individual or a citizen were the same as that of the press. 

Little doubt, the Editors Guild of India has issued a strong statement while several ministers have condemned the action.

The role of the responsible press is to act as a watchdog and there are ethical norms that the media is supposed to follow. In recent times, there has been erosion in credibility of journalism.

The distinction between agenda driven campaigns and journalism has blurred. 

The arrest of this journalist should make us introspect and follow journalism of truth and public interest which is free, frank and fearless that has always been championed by Tehelka.