By the Editor: Siddharth Sehgal
Why you should be concerned about the arrest of journalists? Even the ones well know as Godi or lapdog journalists. I am not saying that journalists are above the law but investigation or arrest should not have a tinge of revenge. India ranks abysmally 142nd out of 180 in the press freedom index in 2020 as per Reporters Without Borders (RSF). From persecuting journalists for reporting on the government’s Covid response to arresting journalists on their way to Hathras for covering the rape case, our country is becoming a dangerous place for journalists and why should it matter to you.
If you are not seeing any news shows on unemployment on TV, if concerns on privatizations of government sector jobs are not being discussed in newspapers or the TV debates then you should be concern about the government overreach in the media sector. Many schools have been closed due to lockdown, many students had to withdraw from schools because their parents had lost their jobs or their business has suffered a setback in lockdown. The biggest concern with the central government is that it does not like to hear criticism, it just wants to hear the ‘positive news’ and the journalists whose names come up in their naughty list find out the hard way what it means to rub the government in the wrong way. If the government does not want to hear the negative news that do you think your complaints or concerns will find a sympathetic ear.
Often journalists are arrested and locked up on trump up charges without any credible evidence or due process. BJP is all up in arms on the arrest of Arnab Goswami in Maharashtra but wouldn’t comment on its own record on the treatment of journalists who don’t toe the line in states where the party holds the power. I never heard BJP questioning Biplab Kumar Dev on the state of journalistic freedom in Tripura.
Goswami who was so vocal on his channel on finding a nonexistent murder angle in the suicide of actor Sushant Singh Rajput was himself arrested in abetment of the suicide of an interior designer who specifically named the anchor in the suicide note. Goswami brand of journalism is a mix of sycophancy and disinformation fueled by aggressive on-air theatrics. He should be investigated for wrongdoing but the way he was arrested raises questions that the Maharashtra government should answer. It is a dangerous precedent that political parties in this country are all too willing to replicate.
It’s not that only the Right-wing takes a heavy-handed approach to reporters. The Left and liberal parties are no different, in West Bengal, a few months ago an editor of a major newspaper had to resign after the publication was slapped with legal notices.
I will leave links to RSF website and its coverage of press freedom and its repression in India at the end of the article so that you can get a sense of the gravity of the situation. Freedom to ask questions ensures that your rights do not get trampled for political and personal gains.