Is Arnab Goswami misusing freedom of press?

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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 100s 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 and police have been at loggerheads since April this year.

That said, the same court has taken suo moto notice of far less volatile matters and laid out diktats. 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 other television news channels don’t like Goswami’s journalism. 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. It’s a fact though that more anchors in every television news channel are aping Goswami. Losing TRP is a great leveller and the Arnab-style works wonders. It was falling TRP which made a horde 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.

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 Raput 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 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.” 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.”

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