New Delhi: The Fourth Pillar of Democracy faced a brazen assault on Wednesday (November 4) morning when Republic TV’s Editor-in-Chief Arnab Goswami was arrested by the Maharashtra police. Of late, Arnab Goswami has been in the news due to his continuous coverage of Sushant Singh Rajput death case, and for cornering Mumbai Police Commissioner, Shiv Sena and Congress party or due to his channel’s alleged involvement in the TRP scam, but Zee News took an impartial stand and remained silent as it was least affected by his brand of journalism.
The opportune moment, however, came today to break the silence. The famous French philosopher Voltaire once said, “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” These golden words can be guiding principles for journalists today. We may not agree with what Arnab says, but we will continue to fight to defend his right to freedom of expression.
Arnab was arrested from his Lower Parel residence in Mumbai not because of his stand in the Sushant Singh Rajput’s death or the TRP scam or because of his journalism, but in a two-year-old case, in which he has been booked under section 306 (abetment of suicide) and 34 (common intention) of the IPC in connection with the suicide of architect-interior designer Anvay Naik and Naik’s mother over alleged non-payment of dues by Republic TV in 2018.
In his purported suicide note, Anvay Naik specifically mentioned the names of Goswami and the other two accused. The Raigad police had probed this case last year and filed a closure report in this case. Arnab Goswami was neither arrested nor questioned in this case.
The family of Anvay Naik, however, again filed an appeal in the Bombay High Court in July 2020 to reopen the case. The Naik family also met the Alibag police on 12th October and demanded further investigation. In just three days, 15th October 2020, the CID unit of the Alibag police told the court that they were reopening the case to start an investigation.
On Arnab Goswami’s arrest, reactions from different quarters are coming, but some questions need an answer:
1. The police had filed a closure report in the case after probing it for nearly a year. It had cited a lack of evidence against the accused. Whats are the new facts that it has now found?
2. An accused is interrogated in the police custody only under certain circumstances when the accused is suspected to flee the country or he/she may erase the evidence or put pressure on witnesses. In this two-year-old case, no such reason was seen so far, then why did the police suddenly feel the need to interrogate Arnab by arresting him?
3. In such a situation, the accused could be summoned to the police station for questioning by sending a notice and after recording his statement, the investigation could have progressed. The police, however, suddenly reached Arnab Goswami’s residence and arrested him without serving any notice.
4. The fourth question is that Arnab Goswami was not given an opportunity to talk to his lawyers.
A journalist is not expected to remain silent. This is considered to be the greatest quality of journalists, but it is also their biggest folly. The journalistic voice should merely aim at conveying the truth to people, but the time has changed in the era of social media. Lies are spread from one corner of the world to the other at a faster pace.
What Republic Editor-in-Chief Arnab Goswami is facing today has been faced by Zee News Editor-in-Chief Sudhir Chaudhary eight years ago, and still confronting the same even today. There were no social media when Sudhir Chaudhary had faced this difficult phase and the country’s media too remained silent, but Zee News kept on walking despite facing odds.
Journalism is currently standing at a crossroads where we have to decide whether to show an advertisement to make you happy, or to show you the truth. If the truth is shown, scribes are implicated in false cases, they are put under surveillance, they start getting threats, their families are not allowed to move freely, and are constantly trolled on social media. On the contrary, if we show advertisements, it will be dishonest professional conduct. Those who don’t compromise have to sacrifice them in the name of the fourth pillar of democracy.
The fourth pillar plays a crucial role in strengthening the country’s democracy, but its foundation is being weakened. Those who are adamant are facing all odds. The breed of journalists who dare to speak the truth is almost extinct, and those who are still holding the banner of truth are under constant threat.
Notably, a court at Alibaug in Maharashtra’s Raigad district on Wednesday evening remanded Republic TV Editor-in-Chief Arnab Goswami in judicial custody till November 18 in a 2018 abetment to suicide case. The police had sought Goswami’s custody for 14 days, but the court held that custodial interrogation was not required.