The Editors Guild of India website lists one Arnab R Goswami as a member. But in a moment of on Monday, the Republic TV chief editor announced his resignation from the body. “Whatever remaining credibility of the Editors Guild of India has been destroyed by its abject silence,” Goswami proclaimed, “I have been a member of the Editors Guild of India for a long time. I hereby resign from the Editors Guild of India.”
On Monday, Goswami was discussing the supposed silence of the “pseudo-liberal Lutyens media” and the “Not In My Name gang” on the lynchings of Juna Akhara sadhus in Maharashtra’s Palghar on April 16, “an officially sanctioned killing of Hindu sons” . Towards the end of the show, Goswami announced his resignation and lobbed broadsides at the Guild, calling it “a defunct organisation”, “a group of has-beens”, and an “organisation that only operates in self-interest”. He also accused Guild president Shekhar Gupta of keeping mum about the lynchings.
Goswami’s theatre at 9 pm had the usual nutty ingredients. Panelists blamed the lynching on communists, Naxalites, and even “the Church”. A Shiv Sena spokesperson announced his resignation from the party on air, and claimed that the sadhus in Palghar were lynched to avenge the arrests of activist Gautam Navlakha and author Anand Teltumbde. Goswami went after The Wire and its founder Siddharth Varadarajan, claiming the news website wanted to deny the “Hindu identity” of the sadhus.
The Editors Guild was established in 1978, a year after the Emergency imposed by Indira Gandhi ended. Its objectives, , include “protecting press freedom and...raising the standards of editorial leadership of newspapers and magazines”. The Guild regularly puts out statements expressing alarm and displeasure when journalists are assaulted or their profession is targeted. In fact, the Guild’s latest statement came on Tuesday, expressing “” after two Kashmiri journalists were booked under the draconian Unlawful Activities Prevention Act earlier this week.
Senior members of the Guild told Newslaundry that Goswami has never attended a single meeting of the body since he became a member. He was inducted into the body in 2008-09, when Rajdeep Sardesai was its president.
According to its constitution, the Guild is supposed to hold a meeting of its members once every year. The executive committee of the Guild has to meet every quarter.
Goswami, it turns out, is simply talking smack about a media body where his participation is zilch. It’s the Republic TV equivalent of an intern storming out of a newsroom and announcing his departure through a press release.
It seems Goswami expected two things from the Guild. One, a statement condemning the Palghar lynchings. Two, a statement on the “fake news” by the media on the coronavirus lockdown. The first demand is not reasonable because it asks the Guild to step beyond its mandate. The body limits itself to matters concerning the media, so it has no business issuing statements on the murder of the sadhus. The second demand does fall within the Guild’s mandate, but it is not clear which piece of “fake news” Goswami wanted condemned.
In the beginning of his segment, the Republic TV editor did hint at an NDTV about people in Arunachal Pradesh hunting and consuming a snake, reportedly because of food shortage caused by the nationwide lockdown. Goswami said such news reports were being put out by “fake news champions” and “a channel that nobody watches”.
The NDTV report was disputed by BJP leader Kiren Rijiju on Twitter, who said there was no shortage of rice in the state and that people there did not hunt and consume snakes. However, the video in the NDTV story shows people alleging that their granaries have run out of food since the Covid-19 lockdown. Another in the Hindustan Times confirmed that the residents in question had killed and consumed the snake.
So, the NDTV report is not really a piece of fake news, as Goswami would have us believe. Though if the anchor is prepared to look inwards, we at Newslaundry can send him a list of every time Republic TV has packaged hogwash as news. Ironically, Goswami’s primetime peg – that the sadhus were murdered because they were Hindus – was definitely fake news. Media reports on the incident have not suggested anything to this effect. In fact, the incident falls within the pattern of the “” that swept India in 2018 – when strangers were beaten to death because of paranoia over child abduction generated through false WhatsApp forwards.
It is surprising that the Editors Guild did not suspend Goswami’s membership in the first place. A disqualification clause in its constitution allows the body, through ballot, to expel a member if his or her conduct is “unbecoming of the position of an editor” – Goswami’s forte. In the past, the Guild has suspended the memberships of journalists Tarun Tejpal and MJ Akbar, both accused of serious sexual misconduct.
Yet, even if we put the larger expectations aside, Goswami has rarely stood up for press freedom. He did not do so when the IBN Lokmat offices in Mumbai and Pune were in 2009, the year he joined the Guild. He didn’t do so even when his own channel’s reporters, among others, were attacked by rioters during the communal violence in Delhi earlier this year.
Goswami was a piece of purposeless furniture in the Editors Guild – he was a sleeping member, did not raise voice for press freedom, and is no editorial exemplar. His resignation from the body makes absolutely no difference.
Newslaundry contacted Goswami for a comment on his resignation. He replied: “I don’t speak to Newslaundry, okay?”
We also sent a questionnaire to Shekhar Gupta, the Editors Guild president. This article will be updated if he responds.