Arrest of a Journalist – muzzling free speech

By Mrgya V

The recent arrest of Arnab Goswami on Wednesday morning, triggered a war of words between BJP and the Shiv sena, with BJP alleging that the arrest was political. Goswami has been claimed for favouring the BJP dispensation at the centre and has been critical of Shiv  Sena. The BJP  is calling this arrest an attack on freedom of press while Shiv Sena is asking why the BJP should get riled over an arrest in a criminal case. The Sena maintains that it is not a politically motivated case, at the same time it says it is very hard to ignore that aspect of a journalist who has overtly favoured the rival camp.

Arnab Goswami the owner and editor in chief of the Republican TV is accused for the death of an interior designer Anaya naik. On Wednesday he was arrested, the manner of his arrest smacks of vendetta by the Shiv Sena government. There are few other cases against Arnab like the recent TRP scam, one FIR was registered for incitement of disaffection over the show in which the channel said that several officers in Mumbai were against commissioner Param Bir Singh, another is for allegedly communalising incidents like the gathering of migrants outside Bandra railway and lynching of sadhus in Palghar. All these cases are not recent and almost each one of these is closed now. 

It is not only the Shiv Sena government who has tried to stop the voice of the media and not the only instance in which a journalist is arrested through a politically motivated move. Every government had or has tried it in a different or same form. In Manipur, a journalist Wangkhem was arrested on charge of sedition for responding to a viral social media post. In UP, Prashant Kanojia has been arrested for sedition by UP police. Siddique kappan, a reporter with Meghalaya news portal azhimukham.com was arrested by UP police on  his way to Hathras and  has been charged under unlawful activities(prevention) act for conspiring against the state government.

So the point here is not whether Mr. Goswami actually guilty or not but why is the state acting against free speech?

If we have given freedom of expression then that expression can not always be in favour of the ruling party and can sometimes be against the government also. Journalism is the fourth pillar of democracy and is supposed to put the true picture in front of the public. The government should support it even if it is uneasy to handle criticism as it creates balance in the country and gets sustainability in the system. Positive criticism acts as a safety valve and of is part of freedom of speech as well.

Even if we suppose that Arnab was favouring a particular party through his channel then also it was not the correct way to handle it. After all Shiv Sena also does not have a clean chit. There are channels favouring the Sena also. Everyone is trying to do the same. These events shows a silent threat by the government to muzzle free speech and inadvertently control it.

The recent event of France where a teacher was brutally killed and  beheaded for showing a cartoon of prophet Mohammad as an example of freedom of expression sounds quite similar to the murder of an Indian journalist Gauri Lankesh for expressing her freedom of expression by doing fearless journalism. The killing of Shujaat Bukhari by terrorists in Kashmir is just the same as as the state acting against the editor of Kashmir Times, Anuradha Bhasin. The Sedition Act and Unlawful Activities (prevention) Act are used by the government to make the media silent just like bombs are used by terrorists. The whole system of police works hand in glove with its political masters and can be used anywhere, anytime and against anyone. Both, terrorists or police, spread terror only. The only difference is the way it is done.  

We are trying to fight against terrorism all over the world. We are taking pledges in international organisations to eradicate terrorism from the world. It is the need of the hour to look at this legal, organised and approved terrorism as well.

Mr. Goswami`s arrest is another alarm that rings with each such kind of event. These events kept on happening in the past and will keep on happening in future also. Blaming a single government and single party for doing so is not the solution. 

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