On Sunday, the Congress party pointed out that India dropped two places on the Press Freedom Index, compiled by an organisation named Reporters Without Borders. The grand-old party also claimed that the BJP is hell-bent on destroying the fourth pillar of democracy. But, events of the past throws light on the Congress’ murky track record in gagging the media.
India slipped two places in World Press Freedom Index to 142. As we commemorate #WorldPressFreedomDay, we must remember that the BJP is hell bent on destroying this fourth pillar of democracy and we shouldn’t let that happen.— Congress (@INCIndia) May 3, 2020
To all the journalists we would say, Daro Mat. pic.twitter.com/JThPf1gTUI
Congress targets Arnab Goswami
On 27th April, Arnab Goswami was interrogated for over 12 hours by Mumbai Police at NM Joshi Marg Police station in Mumbai. He was questioned after the Congress party filed more than 150 FIRs against him in various states of the country. The Supreme Court had merged all the FIRs into one and transferred to Mumbai. The apex court had also granted interim protection of three weeks to the Republic TV Editor.
On 2nd May the Republic Media CFO S Sundaram was interrogated by Mumbai police for over 7 hours in the case against Arnab Goswami. It may be noted that the case against is Arnab Goswami is over comments he made in his program, and the Chief Financial Officer, which is a non-journalistic position, should not have anything to with the case. But still the CFO was questioned for almost a whole workday, a clear sign of intimidating tactic used by the Shiv Sena-NCP-Congress government in Maharashtra.
The Congress party opened a war front against Arnab Goswami and his TV channel after he had questioned Congress President Sonia Gandhi over her silence on the Palghar lynching case where two Hindu saints and their driver were brutally killed by a mob in the presence of police. Arnab Goswami had used the birth name of Sonia Gandhi and had insinuated that she will take the lynching as a success story after forming the govt in Maharashtra. Taking objections to the comment, Congress party had filed police complaints in various states against him, mostly in Congress-ruled states.
Arnab Goswami was also attacked by two Congress goons in the wee hours of the intervening night between the 22nd and the 23rd of April. Although they had confessed to being Congress members before the security officer of Arnab Goswami, the Mumbai police refused to mention that in the FIR registered in the attack. Goswami alleges that attack on him is being ignored by police, while the entire police force has gone after against him.
How Congress silenced media during Emergency?
During the Emergency of 1975, the Congress Government led by Indira Gandhi employed three tactics to censor the media. First, the government reduced advertising on newspapers that were critical of its policies.
Second, to control the flow of information, the government announced the merger of the Press Trust of India (PTI) and the United News of India (UNI). Moreover, it merged the Samachar Bharti and Hindusthan Samachar which published news in Hindi.
Third, the government used intimidatory measures such as eviction from government houses and shutting down media houses, against journalists and publishers. The Government also implemented the Monopoly and Restrictive Trade Practices (MRTP) Act that limited the reach of media to the audience due to lesser prints.
Netizens point out the Irony
Following the tweet by the official Twitter handle of the Congress party, netizens were quick to point out the sheer hypocrisy of the family-run party. A twitter user, Bhargavi, pointed out the dark days of Emergency when journalists who refused to bow down to the diktat of the former prime Minister Indira Gandhi. She also pointed out the 200 FIRs filed against Arnab for questioning the abject silence of the party supremo, Sonia Gandhi.
🤣🤣🤣 party that imposed Emergency, party that arrested journalists who didn’t dance to its tunes, party that recently filed 200 FIRs against a journalist because he questioned their party President, is talking about press freedom? Irony died 786th death! https://t.co/EbRewb7jll— Bhargavi.. (@smna17) May 3, 2020
Another user (@YearOfRat) pointed out how journalist Arnab Goswami was harassed for 12 hours by Mumbai police for stating the birth name of Sonia Gandhi.
Could have been because of the 12+ hours interrogation of Arnab for taking the name of the OneWhoCannotBeNamed? https://t.co/YjDbed1dBx— Prevention Is Cure Than BetteRatty (@YearOfRat) May 3, 2020
The same argument was reiterated by another Tweeple, Ishan Bhardwaj who indicated that people have rejected the Congress for its double speak.
Taking Arnab for interrogation that lasts 12 hours just for a comment on a live show then shamelessly talking about press freedom is only Cong thing. Reason why people have rejected you. #WorldPressFreedomDay https://t.co/jD4QvrMKyg— Ishan Bhardwaj (@Mr_Bhakt) May 3, 2020
The tweet by the dynasty-run party, lamenting about India’s decline in press freedom index, is not surprising. It has been an established practice within the Congress party to gag media when in power but transform into crusaders of press freedom.