The arrest of Republic TV Editor-in-Chief Arnab Goswami has been condemned by several individuals including top Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders to union ministers.
Media forums and journalists' associations have also come out in Goswami's support and condemned the arrest.
Everyone has lashed out at the Maharashtra government and the Mumbai Police for arresting the celebrated journalist.
Well, even I condemn the arrest and I have my reasons for it but I right away refuse to buy the argument claiming his arrest as an attack on the freedom of media and democracy.
Arnab Goswami has been arrested and sent to 14-day judicial custody in connection to a two-year-old abetment to suicide case.
He has been charged under several sections of the IPC and none of these even remotely charge him for any of his journalistic works.
So why this hullaballoo- especially by those at the helm of affairs?
As a student of journalism for over a decade, all I have known is that media or freedom of media is under threat when the people in power try to plug the voices and the truth from coming out.
I don't want to comment on the brand of journalism that Arnab Goswami does as I feel every journalist, with experience and time, develops his/her style and Arnab Goswami with nearly three decades of experience has reached to such a position where he has created a brand of his own.
We may choose to like him or ignore him- the choice is ours!
Anyhow, let me come back to the main topic and state once again clearly- the arrest of Arnab Goswami is not an attack on the freedom of media.
The support that Arnab Goswami has got is admirable, but the question is where were these supporters when several journalists across the country were arrested for "speaking the truth"? Why this discrepancy?
Here are few instances (in no particular order) when journalists were arrested by the police and most of us (who are voicing out now) chose to remain silent.
Kishore Chandra Wangkhem
Kishore Chandra Wangkhem is a 39-year-old journalist from Manipur, who has been behind the bars since October- charged over Facebook posts.
"He was arrested on September 29 for the second time on charges of inciting enmity between the two communities. He is currently detained at the Sajiwa Central Jail in Imphal East," the Outlook India reported on November 4.
The journalist was arrested for responding to a viral Facebook post made by the wife of a BJP politician.
"The post was in response to a reportedly derogatory comment and a "racial slur"’ about her made by a Meitei woman close to her husband. The wife belongs to the Maram community, a different Manipuri tribe, of the state. The police, who had opted to turn a blind eye to the alleged post by the woman close to the BJP politician, suddenly sprung to action after Kishore Chandra's post, according to his wife Ranjita Elangbam. Despite requests, Kishore Chandra is awaiting bail even after more than four weeks," further added the Outlook India report.
It may be mentioned here that Kishore Chandra Wangkhem was arrested in April 2019 under sedition charges as he made a statement against Manipur Chief Minister N Biren Singh.
Chandra, in his statement, had condemned Singh's decision to commemorate Rani of Jhansi's battle against the British in Imphal.
Chandra said that Rani Lakshmibai had nothing to do with Manipur.
So is his arrest not an attack on the fourth estate of democracy and an attempt to silence the free man's voice?
Pawan Jaiswal, a journalist from Uttar Pradesh, was arrested in 2019 after he exposed the mid-day meal scam at Mirzapur area of the state.
The Mirzapur police slapped criminal charges against Jaiswal as he shot a video revealing how over 100 students at a primary school in Siyur village of Mirzapur were served salt with chapati instead of vegetables or lentils.
In the FIR lodged against Jaiswal, it was reported that he and another villager (a representative of the headman) conspired to shoot the video in an attempt to deliberately show the school in a bad shape despite knowing the fact that the materials to meet the need of the school were not in abundance.
"The responsibility to make the supplies available for the mid-day meal lies with the gram pradhan but he did not do his job and conspired with the journalist to defame the district," the FIR added.
Apart from Jaiswal the other accused named in the FIR was Raj Kumar Pal- the village head representative- under sections 120-B, 186, 193 and 420 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).
Jaiswal's arrest was condemned by several journalists bodies across the country, even though the Central leaders decided to remain silent over the issue.
Jaiswal, who courageously unearthed the rampant corruption and revealed the truth was sent behind bars.
Was it the victory of democracy then and support for the media?
Rajib Sarma is a journalist working for a local satellite channel in Assam, who was arrested in July this year after a complaint was filed against him by a district forest officer.
It may be mentioned here that Sarma was investigating the officer’s alleged links to cattle smuggling and other illegal activities.
Ironically, the leaders of Assam who are claiming that the arrest of Arnab Goswami is an attack on the freedom of the press remained silent in case of Rajib Sarma.
Rajib Sarma's father even suffered a fatal heart attack after he was arrested by the police on a late July night.
However, after facing criticism a lot of criticism the Assam government ordered a CID probe into the case and released him on bail.
Siddique Kappan is a reporter with the Malayalam news portal www.azhimukham.com.
The Uttar Pradesh police arrested Kappan on October 5, 2020, while he was on his way to Hathras to cover the gang-rape and murder of a Dalit teenager.
Kappan has been charged under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act for ‘conspiring’ against the state government.
The media freedom was in danger when reporters were not allowed to visit the Hathras rape victim's family and stopped at the entrance of the village after her body was forcibly burnt by the police.
The question is- how is it wrong to report on an incident like rape? If journalists don't visit ground zero to collect the truth, then how will the readers and viewers know the truth? Or is it a crime to report the wrongdoings of the government?
These are only a few incidents that came to my mind immediately and if we go on digging, we will find hundreds of such cases where FIRs have been lodged against journalists or cases where they have been arrested for speaking out the truth.
Are we at fault when we point out the failures of the government? If I am arrested today for speaking out the failures of the state government, will the freedom of press be in danger then? Will I get support from those political figures who have decided to stand in solidarity with Arnab Goswami?
I have absolutely no hatred or disliking against anyone standing for Arnab Goswami or sharing the various Hashtag campaigns. I don't know what the truth is and if at all Arnab Goswami is at fault or not.
The police will investigate and the court will judge if Arnab Goswami is guilty or not.
With a rank of 142 out of 180 countries in the 2020 World Press Freedom Index, we all can imagine the amount of freedom the media enjoys in the country.
Let us not speculate but let us evaluate and learn to call a spade a spade.
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Partha Prawal (Goswami) is a Guwahati-based journalist who loves to write about entertainment, sports, and social and civic issues among others. He is also a published author.