India’s Press Freedom has not suddenly turned sour, despite what the BJP might say
A list of journalists who did not receive the same state support Arnab Goswami has, despite being arrested, violated and murdered.
Anna Abraham, Founding Editor
Artwork by Neel Ghaghada
In recent times, what has passed off as journalism has been nothing short of abhorring. It’d be a waste of space to even further upon this, it’s far too obvious what is intended by my saying this. For the sake of journalism, I will refrain from calling Arnab Goswami a journalist. The term entertainer seems more apt.
Goswami’s recent arrest has been termed as an attack on the free press. While the political motives are open to contestation, this terming of an ‘attack’ is not. For one, the arrest was not regarding the Republic entertainment channel or Goswami’s reportage. Secondly, a commoner who does not subscribe to any sort of journalistic integrity cannot be called a journalist. Any sort of state action against such a commoner, hence, cannot be termed an attack on the free press. The man, however, did make sure his arrest was as entertaining as his channel – problematically so, of course. Yet what’s even more disturbing is the enormous support from leaders like Amit Shah and Smriti Irani, comparing it to censorship from the Emergency times (during the Congress leadership). The sheer blatancy of the affiliation with the party and the entertainer is blinding. However, this enthusiasm to call it an attack on the free press is comedic for two reasons. One – the enthusiasm to speak up against the freedom of the press was lacking when it came to the arrests and cold-blooded murder of countless journalists (I would write ‘other journalists’ but that would imply the entertainer in question was one). Two – when has any government ever cared about, much less advocated for, the freedom of the press. The motives cannot be more starkly visible and crippling to the democracy of our country.
Here’s a list of journalists who actually questioned the government – the actual purpose of journalism that seems to have been forgotten – and whose consequent arbitrary arrests and shocking murders the BJP did not think qualified as the death of free media.
Prashant Kanojia – Kanojia has been arrested multiple times in the past few years. He was recently arrested in August for allegedly posting a morphed photograph related to a Ram Temple in Ayodhya. This was the third time the UP Police registered an FIR against him regarding a social media post.
Siddique Kappan – Kappan was arrested on the way to report on the UP Hathras rape case. He and three others were booked under the UAPA and other sections of the IPC. The Hathras Police claims that Kappan was conspiring to instigate riots along caste lines.
Siddharth Varadarajan – The Founding Editor of the news portal The Wire has been continuously harassed for his journalism. Recently, the UP Police filed an FIR against him for reporting that Yogi Adityanath attended a religious event during the lockdown period; this information was available in the public domain.
Gauri Lankesh – Lankesh was a journalist from Karnataka shot dead in front of her house in 2017. Lankesh’s murder has been related to her seriously critical reportage of the BJP and its Hindutva agenda.
Masrat Zahra – A photojournalist from Kashmir, Zahra was booked under the recently amended draconian Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) for posting her photographs on Facebook. Her work was a documentation of the excesses committed by the State in Kashmir.
Kishore Chandra Wangkhem – A Manipuri journalist, Wanghkem was arrested in October 2019 under the National Security Act and remains in jail till date. His arrest came after social media posts criticising the BJP government and the RSS. His wife says he is ill-treated and has developed serious health problems.
Rajeev Sharma – Sharma was arrested in September by the Delhi Police for alleged involvement in a ‘spy ring’ with foreign nationals. Sharma has been denied bail. Press Freedom bodies have condemned this citing the Delhi police’s notorious record of framing and arresting journalists.
Tsewang Rigzin – The Leh correspondent was arrested for another man’s comment on a Facebook group he started. The FIR complaint was lodged by the BJP MP Tsering Namgyal. The comment was about the BJP MP.
Rajib Sarma – An FIR was filed by a Divisional Forest Officer (DFO) in the Dhubri Forest Division accusing Sarma of extortion and ‘outraging the modesty of a woman’. Sarma had been reporting about the same officer’s involvement in cattle smuggling and other illegal activities.
Paramesh – A journalist with a Telugu news channel, Paramesh’s house was demolished due to his critical reportage of the MLA, Mahareddy Bhupal Reddy. He claims, Reddy had celebrated his birthday during the lockdown with over 500 people – in clear violation of lockdown rules.
Ravindra Saxena – Saxena was booked by the UP Police for his critical reporting on the state’s mismanagement of the COVID crisis.
Dhaval Patel – Patel was arrested in a sedition case, for an article that claimed Gujarat CM Vijay Rupani would be replaced for his poor handling of the coronavirus in the state.
Andrew Sam Raja Pandian – Pandian, the founder and chief executive at SimpliCity, was arrested after the website reported on challenges faced by healthcare workers during the pandemic and corruption in the Public Distribution System.