Ranjona Banerji: What about journalists punished for doing their job?

06 Nov,2020

By Ranjona Banerji

 

If I got ₹100 for every time I’ve heard this bit of nonsense I’d be ready to compete with Mr Adani’s bank account: “O even if you disapprove of Arnab Goswami, you must support him”.

It’s bull and I’ll tell you why.

Arnab Goswami, the head honcho part-owner of Republic TV, the BJP propagandist, the rabble-rouser, the instigator of hatred, who once was a journalist, has been arrested on charges of “abetment to suicide”. Not for anything to do with his channel, his anchoring or his pretensions to journalism.

And yet, some journalists, journalists’ associations, almost the entire Modi Cabinet and various sections of the BJP and well-known BJP supporters have all jumped to Goswami’s defence, screaming, shouting, whining about the assault on “freedom of the press” by the Maharashtra Government. The anger and pain we must feel is that Goswami was badly treated by the police, he was hurt on his arm, his family was involved in the fracas and so on.

Here’s the deal. Let’s agree that police brutality in India is appalling and let’s all concentrate our journalistic efforts on the matter. We can include the terrible custodial conditions, the prison system itself, rehabilitation programmes, shoddy investigation methods, custodial rape and death, police torture and all the horror that happen behind those closed doors.

As journalists, in support of all humanity, that would be a great effort.

We could also examine bail conditions. How there are different rules if you forward an “offensive” social media message – no bail – or you criticise the government – no bail, no trial – or if you are a person of the wrong religion or caste – no bail, no trial, or you own a book the police don’t like – no bail, no trial. And if you a human rights activist, well, Mr Goswami would be the first to scream on his show that you deserve only endless jail, no bail, no trial.

As journalists we usually, or some of us anyway, concentrate on the victim of the crime. So, who is the victim here? Goswami, for not paying his bills? Two other people were also named in the suicide note and they have also been arrested. Ravi Shankar Prasad, Union minister, has not tweeted in their support that persons of their “stature” should not be badly treated.

Because that’s the other unofficial rule in India: that people of “stature” like Goswami have to be treated differently. You complain to the police that a piece of jewellery is missing from your home. The police, if they can be bothered at all, will catch any domestic workers around your home and thrash them within an inch of their lives. If you don’t know this, you don’t deserve to be a journalist. You are also a prime idiot. How about we journalists start a campaign against classism in the Indian judicial system?

“But you are being unfair, you must show solidarity, even if you don’t agree with Goswami, you must support him as a journalist.”

Grow up. Journalists who get accused of crimes disconnected to their journalism get no support all from any associations. They are forgotten and become part of the gossip mill. Their close friends and family are all they have. Depending on the nature of the crime, they lose their jobs and support systems. I have seen no association bleating about freedom of the press then. They’re labelled as bad eggs and that’s it.

And journalists who are punished for doing their job? Aah, yes, we have endless examples of those in India right now. They are harassed, roughed up, manhandled, locked up. The likes of Mr Goswami are the first to target these journalists as anti-nationals etc when they have dared to criticise his precious government in power, the BJP. Not that he stands up for journalists who are harassed by non-BJP governments either.

https://www.newslaundry.com/2020/05/07/gagging-the-media-a-list-of-indian-journalists-booked-arrested-assaulted-during-the-lockdown

https://thewire.in/media/covid-19-journalists-arrested-booked-report

https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2020/jul/31/india-arrests-50-journalists-in-clampdown-on-critics-of-covid-19-response

https://www.huffingtonpost.in/entry/up-journalists-fir-arrest-uttar-pradesh_in_5f3cb2b2c5b61551404ed51a

 

These links have some examples. They are not even up-to-date. These are the journalists that we are a community need to stand aside with, in support of.

So you can keep your bleating “liberal” bothsides-ism to yourself. Some of us are not falling for it.

And, in the meantime, Anvay Naik’s daughter on the treatment meted out to her father and to the family by Goswami.

https://caravanmagazine.in/amp/crime/anvay-naik-daughter-interview-on-being-threatened-arnab-republic-case?fbclid=IwAR3nVODKqr4Rc9QaXjytt9r3HhleTsZEvp4bW-AzNCc1o1lAPJ1zJ4wS9zE&__twitter_impression=true

Ranjona Banerji is a senior editor and commentator. She writes on MxMIndia every Tuesday and Friday. Her views here are personal

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