‘Defence of civil liberties cannot descend into whataboutery’: Newspapers on Arnab Goswami

HT lauded home minister Amit Shah and the information and broadcasting minister’s statements on "free speech", while Indian Express called their outrage selective.

ByNL Team
‘Defence of civil liberties cannot descend into whataboutery’: Newspapers on Arnab Goswami
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The arrest of Republic TV’s Arnab Goswami has divided the media fraternity and the Twitterverse at large. While some press bodies have issued an unequivocal condemnation, others have stated that the police action has nothing to do with the issue of free speech.

It doesn’t help that Goswami himself has cheered and even egged on a clampdown on his colleagues in the media — for example, calling for a ban on NDTV for airing the documentary India’s Daughter. Meanwhile, the Bharatiya Janata Party has extended complete support to Goswami, their most loyal of foot soldiers in the world of TV news.

Top English newspapers today have weighed in on the issue. The Indian Express carried an editorial, "Republic of Police". An editorial should be interpreted as the newspaper’s stance on an issue. Express notes that the Maharashtra police has much to answer.

“What new evidence did it find in the 2018 suicide case that warranted Goswami’s immediate arrest?" it said. "Why this made-for-camera show of intimidation when a mere summons would have served the purpose? The build-up, including the case against Republic TV for an alleged TRP scam, the FIRs naming several in Republic’s newsroom, all reinforce the suspicion that the police is marching to the tune of political vendetta.”

The Hindustan Times in its editorial stated that there could be no “ifs and buts” in this case and the arrest is simply wrong. “It sends the signal that it’s fine to harass journalists. It also sets a dangerous trend and could encourage other police departments and state governments to do the same.” HT notes that the context of the case is immaterial and that even though journalists are not above law, Goswami could have simply been summoned in the case instead of being arrested.

HT also lauded home minister Amit Shah and the information and broadcasting minister’s statements on the "free speech", stating that it was a “good position to take”. Indian Express had called their outrage selective, citing numerous cases in BJP-governed stated where journalists have been slapped with sedition or UAPA.

The Hindu did not have an editorial on the issue, but it did carry a front-page report detailing the case.

The Times of India presented its editorial stance on the issue in the edit piece "Don’t silence critics". The edit starts off calling the abetment to suicide charges “specious” and stated that the arrest follows a pattern of journalists being victimised by increasingly autocratic governments. The piece also makes a note of incarceration of Malayalam journalist Siddique Kappan on sedition and UAPA charges.

It notes: “Attempts in some quarters to posit Goswami’s current plight to his hyper-nationalist views that recklessly undermined others’ free speech and liberties aren’t helpful at all. The defence of civil liberties cannot descend into whataboutery.”

In a long report, TOI detailed the events leading up to Goswami’s arrest. On allegations by Goswami on being assaulted by the police, it quotes a Mumbai police cop: “A senior Mumbai police officer said that they had feared that such allegations would surface and hence they had videographed the entire proceedings. Police claimed that a woman police officer was pushed around during the process of arrest and a complaint is being lodged in NM Joshi Marg police station.”

A table states that Goswami didn’t respond to the cops for an hour.

The TOI website has a video of Goswami’s arrest where the Mumbai police can be heard asking the Goswamis to “please cooperate”.

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Also Read : Arnab Goswami's arrest: FIR filed against Goswami, wife and son for 'assaulting' police officer
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