No Sympathy for Belligerent Prime Time Anchors

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By Shehlat Maknoon Wani

IN May 2018, architect Anvay Naik and his mother were found dead in their bungalow. In a suicide note, Naik blamed Arnab Goswami and a couple of others for the non-payment of dues, which had forced him to take this step. Arnab Goswami had denied these allegations back then, and the case was also closed a year later. However, the case was recently opened, and on November 3, Arnab Goswami was arrested. Maharashtra Police took a cue from Arnab himself: they opened an old suicide case.

Videos shot by the staff members of Goswami showed him being dragged by the police. He repeatedly shouted while he was being pushed into the police van. Such drama is expected from someone who does it every night in his studio. However, this time it was real, and Arnab Goswami was the one being heckled and shoved. Many BJP leaders, including Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath, condemned his arrest. Ironically, Yogi’s police recently arrested a journalist who was booked under UAPA.

Freedom of expression is a right cherished by everyone. Who does not want to speak their mind without the fear of reprisals and consequences? As a student of journalism, I understand that my profession cannot operate without this right. But let me be blunt and say this: not everyone who sits in a studio and calls himself an editor is a journalist. In August 2019 — when Jammu and Kashmir was cut-off from the rest of the world and people were locked inside their homes — Arnab celebrated. It is worth mentioning that his Republic TV did not air a single ground report from Kashmir. Goswami also supported the BJP government when it arrested thousands of Kashmiris, including the pro-India leaders of Kashmir. For many weeks, the entire region remained under a strict day and night curfew with a total communication blockade. A content creator who celebrated this inhuman siege, much less reported on it, should not expect sympathy from anyone.

Arnab Goswami has repeatedly targeted the “Lutyens” media and called for action against them for their “anti-national” activities. Arnab popularized terms like “Tukde Tukde Gang” and “Afzal Premi Gang” to target everyone who dissented against the BJP government. According to him, students at JNU were hatching conspiracies against India, and their counterparts in Jamia — who were brutalized by the police inside their campus — were all rioters. So, why should anyone lose sleep over his arrest? When has this person ever stood for freedom of expression? The prime time anchor has single-handedly hounded numerous people into silence by running sustained campaigns against them. Who can forget how Republic TV reporters — armed with the R. marked red mics —surrounded Rhea Chakraborty asking her if she took drugs. It was Arnab Goswami’s Republic TV, which labeled activists like Sudha Bharadwaj, Arun Ferreira, Vernon Gonsalves, Gautam Navlakha, and Varavara Rao as Urban Naxals; parroting the words spoken by Home Minister Amit Shah in his rallies and parliament addresses.

There is another reason why one should not feel sad or outraged with his arrest. Arnab Goswami has explicitly supported BJP and has targeted its critiques and opposition parties. His arrest must not be seen as an attack on journalism or freedom of expression but on a spokesperson of a political party. He has repeatedly dared Maharashtra CM Udhav Thackeray on his channel, and his arrest is directly linked to that. Although nobody should support the misuse of state machinery by any government, one must be cautious and not act belligerent before determining whose fight it is. Arnab took on an authoritarian state government on behalf of an equally repressive central government. His arrest is a part of an ugly fight between the BJP and Shiv Sena. He will soon be released owing to the support he enjoys, but journalists who were arrested in Kashmir, Uttar Pradesh, and elsewhere will continue to languish in jails. Kashmiri journalist Asif Sultan will remain in prison, serving the second year of his undeclared jail term. Siddique Kappan will have to face sedition and UAPA for trying to report on the Hathras rape case. If the freedom of expression is under attack in India, then Arnab Goswami has played a significant part in its regression. He is reaping the ills of an ecosystem which he architected. The optimist in us can only hope that once he is released, he will stand for everyone’s free speech rights, regardless of their ideology.

  • The views expressed in this article are author’s own and do not necessarily represent that of Kashmir Observer. The author can be reached at shehlatmaknoon@gmail.com

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