After almost two weeks of the witch-hunt launched by Maharashtra government and the Mumbai Police against Republic TV, its journalists and its editor-in-chief Arnab Goswami, the Editors Guild has finally woken up and issued a statement “condemning” the FIR that has been filed by the Mumbai Police against over 1,000 journalists and editorial staff members of the channel. However, in their statement condemning the witch-hunt, as is the habit of Editors Guild, which leans strongly towards the Left, they have tacitly condoned the shocking muzzling of the Republic TV’s right to report and the misuse of power displayed by the Maharashtra government.
In a press release by the Editors Guild, the association said that they are “pained” to see the unedifying spectacle of hundreds of FIRs being filed against journalists of Republic TV, which is “under probe for allegedly manipulating TRPs and spreading discontent against Mumbai Police”.
However, after the initial statement, Editors Guild begins to monkey-balance and condone the witch-hunt against Republic TV. The statement says that “We do not wish to influence the probe by the authorities, even if we recognise it has the potential to bring in much-needed transparency on the manipulation of popularity, and creation of ” proceeds of crime”- as claimed by the police; but the victimization of the journalists should immediately stop. The use of arbitrary state power is not and has never been in the interests of working journalists. This standoff between the Mumbai Police and the TV channel is unprecedented and threatens the tenuous but important to maintain a balance between media freedom and the imperative for it to reside within the rule of law. Right to free speech does not mean a licence to promote hate speech”.
Firstly, to call this a ‘stand-off’ is in itself a terribly watering down. The Maharashtra Government unilaterally used its state machinery, including the Mumbai Police to go after a channel which was questioning them. Thereafter, the entire chronology of events makes it amply clear that Republic TV was not even named in the Hansa Research Report or the FIR filed on the basis of it, as claimed by the Mumbai Police Commissioner. Instead, it was India Today. However, the statement by Editors Guild gives the benefit of the doubt to the oppressor and not the victim in its statement.
Further, the addition of the line where Editors Guild says that “free speech does not mean a license to promote hate speech”, almost seems like an apology for the conduct of the Mumbai Police. Essentially, for the Left, any speech that does not conform to their desired narrative becomes hate speech. Since Republic refuses to toe the Left line, Editors Guild seems to be saying that Republic promotes hate speech and thus, there is merit in this witch-hunt against it.
The Editors Guild statement does not stop there. It further says, “Besides the unsavoury details pertaining to the manipulation of TRPs, the Republic TV’s high-strung conduct during the unfortunate demise of film actor, Sushant Singh Rajput also raises issues about media credibility and the limits to reporting. The Mumbai High Court has pertinently asked the channel’s lawyer about harangue directed at actress Rhea Chakraborty. The High Court asked a question that must be addressed by all: “Is this part of investigative journalism? Asking the public about their opinion on who should be arrested?” Also, the bench wondered whether the channel in the name of investigative journalism was encroaching into the domain of police. Similar reservations about its conduct have been expressed even by News Broadcaster’s Association (NBA) that disagrees with its reporting”.
In this, instead of talking about the state government muzzling a media house undeterred and without any proof, Editors Guild thinks fit to sermonise about the credibility of Republic TV in its own eyes, which does not count for much, to be honest. They then, go on to peddle the shameful statement that was issued by NBA, which against attacked Republic instead of standing by it.
In almost a threat, the Editors Guild statement then tells Republic TV and Arnab Goswami to ‘behave themselves’.
The statement says:
“These are important issues that should have been resolved long ago, but were allowed to fester. It is high time the channel behaves responsibly and not compromises the safety of its journalists as well as hurt the collective credibility of media. The police must ensure that its investigation does not hurt the channel’s journalists or makes any arrests. And that the investigation does not become a tool to suppress media rights”.
Essentially, the Editors Guild blames Republic TV for the hounding of Republic TV and Arnab Goswami on Republic TV itself, without gathering the courage to question the Maharashtra government or even Mumbai Police. In fact, in the entire statement, not once does Editors Guild question how Republic TV is being investigated when another media channel (India Today) was named in the FIR and the Hansa Research Report. The statement by Editors Guild makes it amply clear that they tacitly support the witch-hunt against Republic TV and Arnab Goswami because editorially, they differ from the Left controlled Editors Guild and other media houses that they espouse.
The Editors Guild’s treachery and hypocrisy is rather evidence when once contrasts this statement with the one they issued regarding Kashmir Times.
The strong statement about media freedom etc was issued by the Editors Guild when the sealing of the Kashmir Times building had nothing to do with press freedom at all. As per officials, the Jammu and Kashmir government had allocated two properties to Kashmir Times. One of them was used as office space while the other served as the residence of Ved Bhasin, the founder of Kashmir Times. Following his death in 2015, the administration had issued notices to the family to vacate the government-alloted residence.
As reported by Indian Express, Deputy Director of the Estates Department, Mohammed Aslam informed, “They themselves handed over the building to us and today our officials went to take possession.”
The official stated, “They have been allotted two buildings — one is an office and the other was allotted as a residence to Ved Bhasin sahib. Since Bhasin sahib died some years ago, we issued them notices to vacate the house. They themselves handed over the building to us and today our officials went to take possession.”
In such circumstances, for the Editors Guild to make a hue and cry about it without telling people about the material facts and then, justifying the attack against Republic TV and Arnab Goswami only goes to show that the Editors Guild has now become a dummy organisation that does not look out for the interests of all media houses but only those it agrees with, hiding behind the veil of neutrality.