Home Media Dear Devendra Fadnavis, please use the new law to save journalists from 'trolls'

Dear Devendra Fadnavis, please use the new law to save journalists from ‘trolls’

When catastrophe strikes, creatures that are likely to survive through it are ones like cockroaches, ants, bed bugs, tardigrades and rats. This is mere trivia for grabbing attention of the reader and any resemblance to anything out in the world is purely coincidental.

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A wise man on twitter once said this:

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And this is more likely, unseemly but possibly relevant to our discussion on, nay plea to, Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis.

Mr Fadnavis’s government recently passed the “Maharashtra Mediapersons and Media Institutions (Prevention of Violence and Damage or Loss to Property) Act, 2017” (MMMIA or Mamma MIA Act) without a discussion which effectively means, there was perfect unanimity on the need for this bill. I think this approach is flawed. Not the bill itself, but the fact that it was not debated, because I think that the provisions and possible outcomes of this bill are inadequate. Our journalists need more effective and stringent measures to facilitate free and fearless discharge of their duties!

The Mamma Mia Act may have been modeled on the Doctors’ Protection Act of 2010 since both have very similar provisions and liabilities, but do consider the deplorable implementation of the Doctors’ Protection Act of 2010. Doctors are regularly attacked and held hostage by relatives of patients. The police many a times is not even aware of this law for doctors. They recently had to go on strike to get their concerns heard. I’m sure our friends in Media will not have this problem, they may brandish the law, fling it around and make sure there is more fear of it than provisions warrant. Yet, this is not the end to their problems. The problem ends when media acquires a divine status and uncritical, unquestionable obeisance from the people just as it intends.

A good start has been made by the Maharashtra CM with the Mamma Mia Act. Generally violence against any human being is punishable by the IPC sections 351-352, but we now have clearly signalled that journalists are more human hence they need more protection or others are less human and hence need lesser protection.

I absolutely approve of this elevation of journalists because I have developed tremendous respect for them & I don’t want to land in Maharashtra hoping for a week’s stay and ending up in jail for 3 years and paying Rs 50,000 of my hard-earned money for any inadvertent thought crimes, which I may think is “criticism” but the honourable journalist may think is “incitement to violence”.

The Maharashtra govt, as expressed via Schedule 1 to it’s Profession Tax Act identifies a list of professions. It is very heartening for me to see that:

(A) there is no explicit mention of Journalists/ media in this list. Please make sure they do not have to pay Profession Tax under some other category

(B) the state government thinks it is alright if professionals in these multitudinous professions, which state already recognizes, are attacked. You thus give journalism a place of pride and privilege in the state government’s consideration and I think this discrimination is absolutely necessary.

If others are beaten, the perpetrator can get a bail, have a non cognizable offence registered, pay a Rs 500 fine, stay in jail for a maximum of 6 months, rinse and repeat. But if one even “causes an attack” on a journalist, he is registered for a cognizable offence, has no way of getting bail, gets imprisoned for up to 3 years of his life, pays Rs 50,000 fine, and bears damages caused to the journalist.

One would shudder to even think of criticizing journalists lest the good journo should charge him with “incitement to violence”. Mamma Mia Act is an amazingly drafted check on “thought-crimes” against journalists. If journalists realize its full potential, it could make them unquestionable.

Now on to the more that needs to be done. It is repeatedly alleged by “hateful trolls” that journalists are guilty of instigating insecurity and disunity by giving fillip to violence by certain motivated groups. They even produce instances like this when Syrian pictures are used for violence in Kashmir. Can this not incite violence against journalist who was only trying to spread an alternative fact in a post-truth era?

There are also those who repeatedly bring out examples of how media hounds a particular political ideology but overlooks others. They put forward the example of the incessant reportage on how BJP MLA Ganesh Joshi broke a horse’s leg with a police baton, while video evidences clearly show it was a freak accident. It led to the national son-in-law attacking him verbally. They (the trolls) claim that with such inspired disaffection against Joshi, a lesser mortal could have physically attacked him! Nonsense, reality is that with incessant argument about an inherent media bias, it is the journalists who could be attacked. Scary!

The most glaring instance put forth by these trolls though is the case of the man who is now the Prime Minister of India. His fans say that he was hounded and labelled “mass murderer”, “organizer of pogrom”, “Muslim hater”, what not. This is a clear case of incitement of violence against journalists.

I hope, Mr Fadnavis takes retrospective suo-motu cognizance of people making arguments against trolls who bring out these facts, which may cause disaffection and possible violence against journalists. He should invoke the Mamma Mia act against Modi, imprison him for 3 years, have him disqualified from politics for 6 years and achieve what UPA, Teesta, intelligentsia, liberals, ISI and a host of other potent agencies couldn’t do for over a decade!

An eminent journalist wrote a “gospel”, “I am Troll”, which she calls “a book” out of sheer humility. I think she has successfully established that trolls are out to kill journalists. Mr Fadnavis should file FIRs under the Mamma Mia act based on that book and cleanse Social Media of trolls. The gospel says that this trolling is organized and supported by BJP. This leads right up to Mr Amit Shah and Mr Modi and involves the entire organization. Mr Fadnavis should have an additional clause in Mamma Mia Act that enables derecognizing/ banning organizations like BJP and imprisoning their leaders if journalists allege violence against them!

To offer more protection to journalists from liabilities and rewarding them for bravery, there could be a Maharashtra Mediapersons and Media Institutions Reward  for Justified Violence against Trolls for instances where media’s responsibilities involve beating up common folk like this:

Thug Rajdeep Sardesai assaulting a common citizen
Rajdeep Sardesai protecting journalism

Additionally, Mr Fadnavis could bring back the Communal Violence Bill drafted by UPA so that if Media decides to take a partisan, communal, anti-majoritarian stand, they are backed by law and no criticism is due on them.

It is very important that Mr Fadnavis goes beyond protection and offer privileges to journalists because, as the wise man once said, they ARE the establishment.

Hypothetically, tomorrow if BJP dominates the political scene, and there are multiple contenders for the top job, it is these people who will issue secularism certificates, rate candidates on a scale of Divisive to Inclusive and establish under whom minorities should feel secure. This will give an edge to anyone who already has the support that his party commands and is looking for a little extra to surpass others.

***

The secret to life of resilient creatures is in their adaptability and their ability to go subterranean with their abilities and intentions when the weather is inclement. A lover of life would even try to save some out of pity on their seemingly delicate and indefensible forms and out of a general respect for all life.

But when the weather becomes favourable again, these beings quit subterranean lives, infest homes, even of their saviours, grow and multiply to have enough numbers to continue their species when the next catastrophe strikes…

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