The arrest of Republic TV editor-in-chief Arnab Goswami has resulted in widespread condemnation. Union ministers like Amit Shah, Smriti Irani, Ravi Shankar Prasad, Prakash Javadekar and Subrahmanyam Jaishankar among others, have described this as a crackdown on “press freedom”. They spoke about “fascism” and the days of “Emergency”.
However, many journalists have taken to social media to point out the hypocrisy of how senior netas have been quiet when media persons were targeted in Uttar Pradesh and Gujarat. “Suddenly waking up to ‘shaming of democracy’ and talking of the ‘Emergency’ just sounds so hypocritical,” said Sidharth Bhatia, founding editor of The Wire.
It is also important to point out that Arnab Goswami has NOT been arrested for his journalism, such as it is. Unlike the many others who have been and who got no support from him or the BJP. Yet, if it smacks of vendetta it has to be opposed.
— Sidharth Bhatia (@bombaywallah) November 4, 2020
Columnist Nilanjana Roy quoted an article from Newslaundry that lists the names of Indian journalists who have been booked, arrested, and assaulted during the lockdown. In Kashmir, journalists have been booked under the draconian Unlawful Activities Prevention Act. Uttar Pradesh has alone booked eight journalists, more than any other state.
“Mostly, the journalists have been booked under the Indian Penal Code’s Section 188, which criminalises disobeying a public servant’s order, and Section 505 (1)(b), which punishes causing fear and alarm to the public ‘whereby any person may be induced to commit an offence against the state’. Punitive sections of the Disaster Management Act, 2005 have been invoked as well,” the article stated.
Please stand in support of Masrat Zahra, Peerzada Ashiq, Gowhar Geelani, journalists booked in UP, and the many independent media houses under threat.
— Nilanjana Roy (@nilanjanaroy) November 4, 2020
But no arrest or assault has evoked such a strong reaction from those in power. “What is the name of the Malyali journalist arrested under UAPA in Uttar Pradesh? What is the name of the Caravan Journalist beaten up by Delhi Police ACP?” lawyer and writer Dushyant Arora asked on Twitter.
What is the name of the Malyali journalist arrested under UAPA in Uttar Pradesh? What is the name if the Caravan Journalist beaten up by Delhi Police ACP?
— Dushyant (@atti_cus) November 4, 2020
Like journalists, activists and lawyers have also been exploited in the country.
Varavara Rao, Sudha Bharadwaj, Anand Teltumbde, Umar Khalid... the list of people who shouldn't have been arrested in this country is endless.
— Sayantan Ghosh (@sayantansunnyg) November 4, 2020
Sudha Bhardwaj completed her third anniversary in jail two months ago. https://t.co/jaSpRpB0pA
— Naomi Barton (@therealnaomib) November 4, 2020
Journalist Rohini Singh took a potshot at Javdekar. “Am sure you would agree a free press is needed in all states and not just Maharashtra,” she tweeted.
Dear @PrakashJavdekar ji. I am deeply moved again by your commitment to a free press. Just bringing some cases again to your attention for you to strongly raise with your govts. Am sure you would agree a free press is needed in all states and not just Maharashtra... https://t.co/eVc2Yj2NgP
— Rohini Singh (@rohini_sgh) November 4, 2020
The list of journalists who have been wronged is a long one.
List of Journalists arrestd under Modi Govt till now
But Fascism is only when Arnab is arrestd
— Nehr_who? (@Nher_who) November 4, 2020
In May, a journalist in Gujarat was charged for sedition and spent 20 days in prison. His crime was, he wrote a political piece, suggesting that the BJP might bring a new Chief Minister.
Wonder how that fares on the Minister’s Fascism Barometer. https://t.co/9yZDNkLjpI
— Kunal Purohit (@kunalpurohit) November 4, 2020
Satirist Akash Banerjee alluded to India’s abysmal 142nd ranking in the global press freedom index.
— Akash Banerjee (@TheDeshBhakt) November 4, 2020
What happened to Goswami might be political vendetta and ministers have the right to condemn it. But one only hopes they show as much concern when the next journalist is assaulted in Delhi or arrested in Gujarat.