By Sushil Kutty
The Maharashtra Government and the Mumbai Police will not have to work hard to compile the list of FIRs filed against Republic TV Editor-in-Chief Arnab Goswami. There are hundreds of FIRs lodged against him piled high on Mumbai Police Commissioner Parambir Singh’s desk. There is no love lost between the two and the apex court has asked Arnab to give an assurance that he will do “responsible journalism.”
The two – Arnab Goswami and Mumbai government/police – have been at loggerheads since April this year. “Loggerheads” is putting it rather mildly. Chief Justice Sharad Bobde put it right when he snapped, “Frankly speaking, I cannot stand it. This has never been the level of our public discourse.”
Directed at Goswami, the CJI could have said it for the Mumbai Police and he wouldn’t have missed the woods for the trees. Both Goswami and the Mumbai Police have been trying hard at bringing the level of discourse down to its nadir.
That said, there are folks who wouldn’t baulk at saying that the top court has been taking things rather lightly. The same court has taken suo moto notice of far less volatile matters and laid out diktats. Of course, Arnab Goswami has an “obnoxious” style of going after alleged wrongdoers.
Especially, his antics-filled performance on his 7pm ‘Poochta Hai Bharat’ show, which takes the cake. Goswami carries irreverence to an altogether different level. People take him at face value and they identify with his crass eloquence.
Rival media baron and TV anchor Rajat Sharma of India TV says, “I don’t like Arnab Goswami’s journalism!” He is not alone. Top anchors from maybe a hundred other television news channels don’t like Goswami’s journalism.
They have been helplessly watching Goswami humiliating and disparaging them, designating them members of “lobby of Lutyens Delhi media” and accusing them of being in cahoots with the corrupt. Unverified charges and allegations, and it’s only now that the Supreme Court is saying, “I can’t stand it anymore.”
Goswami’s loud, brash, high decibel-belligerence should have been made to walk the plank at the very outset and the man should have been made aware that saying the same things in a manner fitting would have yielded similar results, no need to go all bark and spitfire.
Talking of people who don’t like Goswami, there is a plethora of political parties which hate his programmes – Congress, Shiv Sena, Sharad Pawar’s NCP, Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool, Mehbooba Mufti’s TDP and Farooq Abdullah’s National Conference to communist parties CPI and CPM.
Arnab Goswami makes enemies “left, right and centre”, which is a primetime show on rival NDTV, which Goswami doesn’t lose an opportunity to pull down left, right and centre! But that is his template: Loud and brash. It’s a fact though that more anchors in every television news channels are aping Goswami. Losing TRPs is a great leveller and the Arnab-style works wonders.
It was falling TRPs which made hordes of media to gun for Republic Media Network. And it was TRP which gave the Mumbai Police the excuse to lodge a patently suspicious FIR against Republic TV Network. The police erred and the Republic pounced.
Surprisingly, the courts haven’t questioned Mumbai Police on this brazen frame-up. The Bombay High Court took note when Maharashtra Government counsel Kapil Sibal admitted that “there’s no case” but the court did not dwell on it which didn’t gel with the Aam Aadmi. Maybe the courts and judiciary read things differently.
The top court should have questioned the Mumbai Police for digging up the archives and pulling out laws from the British-raj era to nail journalists. The top court should also have asked what’s a notorious encounter-cop doing heading the investigations?
Inspector Waze brings to the table a degree of sinister moves which is scary. He was suspended from the Mumbai Police for the alleged “murder in custody” of a young man for which he was suspended from the police force. He quit the force and joined the Shiv Sena. In June, after Uddhav Govt. came to power, he was reinstated in service. His exploits have been discussed threadbare but there’s no move to take him off and out.
For the time being, the top court wants a list of all cases filed against Goswami and “some assurances” of more “responsible reporting.” The loud, brash Jumping-Jack of television Journalism, hated by rivals Rajat Sharma and Sudhir Chaudhary, has been asked to “explain how he is going to go about this.”
That said, the Supreme Court spoke in a conciliatory tone and expected the same from Goswami and the Mumbai Police. The court asked Mumbai Police to tell what it “would not do” and police counsel Abhijit Manu Singhvi assured that no Republic TV journalist will be arrested without due process and summons will come with a 48-hour notice.
Goswami has been giving a pasting to the Uddhav Thackeray government on the Palghar lynching, the Sushant Singh Rajput mystery death and the Mumbai Police handling of them. Earlier, the Bombay High court had said that “prima facie” no case could be made against Goswami. It was against this ruling that the case went to the top court.
The point is that an inflexion point has been crossed. The Supreme Court was told by the Maharashtra Government counsel that beyond a certain point there should not be an “impression that someone is above the law.” CJI Bobde agreed and said some people were being targeted with “higher intensity”, which called for a greater “standard of protection.”
Then, again, he said that freedom of press does not mean journalists cannot be questioned for commission of “crimes while doing their work.” CJI Bobde stressed that harmony in society was paramount and that was an indirect indictment of Arnab Goswami’s style of journalism, which India TV’s Rajat Sharma does not like and which Zee TV’s Sudhir Chaudhary could do without.
Not surprisingly, the CJI struck a balance and said, “Nobody is immune from being questioned. We can ensure the questioning takes place with dignity and privacy, but we also want you (Arnab Goswami) to act with more responsibility.” Everybody agreed. But will Arnab agree to change his style which is giving republic TV higher TRPs? (IPA Service)