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Monday, April 12, 2021

If Arnab is termed bad, then the state vendetta is worse

The arrest by the Raigad police earlier this Wednesday on charges of abetment to the suicide of a 53y/o interior designer and his mother in 2018 does more harm to Indian Journalism by Arnab’s hectoring every night. In more than one way he has single-handedly destroyed the Television Media’s credibility by unabashedly taking political sides and selectively targeting new and boosting his channel’s TRP.

The question here is, as journalists should we object to this arrest?

First off, Arnab is no holy person, and the law of the land he so noisily swears by is equally applicable to Rhea Chakraborty, Sushant Singh Rajput’s former companion, which triggered trials in June after his death that was also pursued by the Republic TV. Arnab was at the forefront of this campaign, implicating Rhea of Sushant’s death. If Sushant’s death wasn’t a plain murder, Rhea was relentlessly accused of pushing Sushant to his death. Taking account of all these campaigns and noisy speeches and debates, it is ironic to see that the same Arnab is now standing accused of abetting a suicide, with the victim reportedly naming him in the suicide note.

What is the story of this suicide victim and why did he decide to end his life?

In May 2018, Anvay Naik an interior designer, along with his mother Kumud Naik was found dead at their bungalow in Alibaug. The police reported an accidental death report and a case of murder because the post mortem report of Anvay’s mother indicated that she was strangulated and it wasn’t a suicide. Kumud’s body was found on the ground floor sofa while Anvay was found hanging on the first floor of the bungalow. The Police believe that Anvay killed his own mother before he committed suicide.

The reason why this case, which happened in 2018, has led to Arnab’s arrest now is that the police found a suicide note written in English that was reportedly addressed to Arnab. In that note Anvay said that he and his mother decided to take the extreme step on account of the payments which were due to them from three companies, Arnab Goswami’s Republic TV, Niteish Sarda of Smartworks and Feroz Shaikh of IcastX/Skimedia. He added in the note that all these three firms owed Anvay Naik’s company, Concorde Designs Pvt Ltd, Rs. 83 lakh, Rs. 4 Crore and Rs. 55 lakhs.

The matter is undoubtedly serious and surely calls for an investigation, but the way it is done is creating a lot of distrust. Arnab’s blatantly biased journalism has put him in trouble with the Shiv-Sena led Maharashtra government, with the state police is desperate enough to dig up as many facts (also termed as ‘dirt’) on the TV Editor possible. Right now the channel is being investigated for a case which was brought to light earlier of rigging the TRP ratings for their TV Channel, whereas many of his journalists are being called in for long interrogations sessions on various charges, including an attempt to incite the rank and file of the police force against the Mumbai Top Cop, Param Bir Singh.

Now, here’s an opinion:

Arnab Goswami is noisy, propagandist and at fault on many points. Agreed! But, the chances are high that he is right in claiming that the Maharashtra police are partisans and they are trying to fix Arnab to please their political matters. Being the propagandist himself, he should know the difference if we are saying otherwise. This police abuse is no surprise. Arnab is a high-profile person and he has central ministers coming out in support of his condemning the arrest.

Looking beyond Mumbai or Maharashtra, the history of cases suggests that India has ceased to be a safe haven anymore for journalists. Ranking 142 on a list of 180 World Press Index, we fare worse than Afghanistan and Mali. Also, is it highly unlikely for journalists who are at the receiving end of the high-handed governments cutting across party lines to get the same kind of support Arnab Goswami is getting?

Manipur journalist Kishorechandra Wangkhem is back in jail for a Facebook post, having spent months in prison a year ago under similar circumstances. He was freed then, when the courts intervened, rapped the state government, and threw out the charge.

Though chastised, the state government has clearly not corrected its course and has thrown Wangkhem back behind bars. Another journalist—this one from Kerala—is currently in jail in Uttar Pradesh after being arrested on the way to Hathras. There are more such cases across the country if one cares to look for them, including in Kashmir, where reporters are being given a rough time. Besides, several journalists run the risk of arrests with FIRs being filed against them for their reports.

Police have made repeated visits to the Republic TV HQ. Clearly, Arnab is not alone in this predicament. Similar excesses perpetrated by those in power are plenty in this public and it is sad to say that it is not limited to any one political party or state. Arnab being the latest victim, it is a larger discontent that is threatening the country’s media. It is certain that he won’t be the last.

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