The Supreme Court’s action in granting bail to Arnab Goswami is a landmark action in acting as a bulwark against state repression. It also resulted in emphatically proclaiming the role of the Supreme Court as the last beacon of hope for protecting individual freedom when all other institutions have failed. The alacrity shown by the court in restoring individual freedom, trampled upon by the state without following the due process of law, should set an example for all the lower courts which routinely ignore such requests on ‘mere technicality’. The observations made by the honourable Judge Mr Chandrachud exhorted the lower courts not to fall short of fulfilling their constitutional obligations in protecting personal liberties.
The most bizarre aspect of the entire Arnab Goswami case has been the complete silence of the fellow journalists and the ‘left-liberals’. Talking of the so-called left-liberals, who are a vociferous group when an opportunity arises to target Modi Government, BJP or their ilk. If the perpetrator is someone else, they exercise their divine right to maintain a dignified silence. As the congress backed Uddhav government is trying to bulldoze and pulverize its critics to submission, a very convenient silence seems to have sealed the lips of all left-leaning journalists and the so-called liberals of the film industry. All the Swara Bhaskar’s of the liberal Mumbai have become the Silent Bhaskar’s. This kind of duplicity and being selective in protecting individual rights and press freedom is a characteristic of most of these so-called ‘civil liberties spokespersons’ displays. There is nothing strange here. But the role of the journalist fraternity is a strange one. Their outward silence is just a veneer to hide their inner glee at the punishment meted out to a competitor who has been hogging all the limelight by being different. They all have maintained a holier than thou attitude and seemed to have convinced their conscience for their inability to speak out by taking a route that he deserved the punishment as he had gone astray. They never spoke out in the face of the constant attempt by the Maharashtra government to browbeat the journalists and staff of the Republic channel with blatant misuse of power. They fail to realise that today it is Republic, tomorrow it can be them with the change of regime. Theirs appears to be a shortsighted vision.
A senior journalist and head of a TV channel are dragged out of home at 7 am and whisked away with an encounter specialist and a big posse heavily armed police to Raigarh on flimsy pretexts. The journalist fraternity finds nothing disgusting in this. There is a deafening silence all around. They have conveniently distanced themselves by proclaiming that what Arnab practices is not journalism. They seem to have taken a high moral ground, and a holier than thou approach when it comes to Arnab Goswami’s journalism, what they fail to see is that every damn TV channel in the country constantly proclaims that only their channel is on the righteous path of true journalism. Others are peddlers of fake journalism. The same attitude of exclusivity is maintained by Arnab, Republic TV, Ravish Kumar-NDTV, Rajdeep Sardesai-India Today, Navika Kumar-Times Now, Sudhir Chaudhary-ZEE TV they all claim the same. One common refrain of the journalists is the standard’ I don’t agree with disagreed journalism’ when someone talks about Republic channel. Most of them are self- pretentious and claim that theirs is the only true journalism. Basically, it all boils down to the game of TRPs and what the channel believes is of national importance.
Arnab Goswami has his shortcomings, but he connects to the masses. He is very theatrical, over the top, tries to ride roughshod over panellists. But he has some good qualities too – he connects with the audience, picks up issues which others try to sweep under the carpet. For example, his lighting of the Palghar case finds resonance with the masses. The killing of a wandering sadhu is abhorrent and unheard of in our culture. When the gruesome deaths of Graham Staines occupied the news space for more than a year, why do we have a problem when he highlights the lynching of the Sadhus.
Republics selection of issues of national importance has seen a groundswell of his support base all around the country. His competitors fail to see his massive support among the common masses. It looks like the high TRP’s of Republic is the core reason for the indignation among his competitors in the digital media. But they camouflage their jealousy by taking high moral ground and by talking condescendingly about his ways of broadcasting his message to the public.
Arnab Goswami may not display a calm and detached attitude like other TV hosts. He is too emotional and passionate about the topics that he believes in and sometimes gets rash in his speech. But because of that, you cannot take away his freedom and liberty. He has brought about a paradigm shift by his style of hosting debates, and this style is here to stay. The other journalists who speak derisively of him fail to see the writings on the wall. There is a reason for his popularity. It is his unflinching support to the national causes that he believes in. This has resulted not only in mass support, but it has garnered support from so many ex- servicemen, sports persons who think similarly when the honour of the country is concerned. The predicament of Republic channel was the same as that of BJP when it was a new party. Other parties were shy of forming alliances with it. They would not touch it even with a barge pole. But see how far the party has come. Whenever anyone brings about a paradigm shift in the way things are conducted, it is always met with isolation and stiff resistance.
The state of Maharashtra has been on a vicious revenge spree against individual liberties by trying to bulldoze and pulverize its critics. Razing the house of actress Kangna Ranaut was not an isolated incident. Nor was the case of the ex-navy person who had forwarded a cartoon of Mr Uddhav Thakeray. He was chased and beaten blue and black. They have special teams to drown the dissenting voices by slapping a slew of cases against them. The journalists of Republic channel are constantly being pushed, dragged in cases and constantly browbeaten in order to break their morale.
The journalists should stand united in fighting against state repression. The attitude of the Maharashtra government is not an isolated one. There have been so many cases of journalists being harassed in different states. The State courts have been lax in granting a reprieve. The media should indulge in the game apartheid when individual and journalistic freedom is attacked by the state.