Thackeray turns on the heat on prime time anchors for spreading communal disharmony

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By our Bureau Chief, Vijaylakshmi Nadar. Edited By Adam Rizvi, TIO, USA: Maharashtra’s newest chief minister, Uddhav Thackeray, besides fighting to save his own seat, and fighting hard to keep Covid19 cases in his home state down, has also decided to stem the communal virus, inflicted on the nation
from prime time television studios every single night, for the last six years.

Lathi Charge on Migrant Workers

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These prime time anchors who have made a complete mockery of the freedom of speech bestowed on them under
Article 19 of the Indian Constitution, have used their influential platform to not only spread hatred against the
Muslim community over the years, but also launched a scripted attack across channels in the last few days to blame
the Tablighi Jamaat, an Islamic Missionary movement, for the sudden spike in Corona cases not just in Delhi, but
the rest of the country as well.

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ABP Majha, Rahul Kulkarni

After directing Mumbai police to arrest Rahul Kulkarni of ABP Majha, the chief minister is now going after the hitherto untouchable by law, famed anchors of the national news media.
Kulkarni’s arrest followed a misleading report on April 15, which led to thousands of migrant laborers rushing to
Bandra station in Mumbai, to buy tickets for their hometown.

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A case has been filed against Arnab Goswami of Republic TV on May 4, for this incident too, following a complaint
by Raza Educational Welfare Society secretary Irfan Abubakar Shaikh, who has stated that Goswami in his channel
had raised the question as to why did mobs gather only near mosques during a lockdown. Goswami had also
dismissed the laborers as “paid” actors out to foil the lockdown efforts by prime minister Narendra Modi.

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Arnab Goswami TV Anchor

After a bunch of First Information Reports (FIR) were filed against Goswami on April 22-23, for making derogatory
remarks against Congress and its president Sonia Gandhi, in a debate on April 20, the Supreme Court had granted
him protection for three weeks against any arrests, to enable him to seek anticipatory bail. The SC stayed all
proceedings against him, except in one case filed by the Maharashtra Power Minister Nitin Raut in Nagpur. Not only
was Goswami interrogated in this case for 12 hours by Mumbai police, on April 27, but the fresh FIR too was filed
against him on a complaint by Shaikh.

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An FIR has also been filed against Amish Devgan on News 18 on May 6 by Mumbai police, followed by an FIR by
the Kerala police against Sudhir Chaudhary of Zee TV on May 7.
This sudden rush by various chief ministers to teach these television channels a lesson, after using their powerful platforms to spread communal hatred across the country comes as a surprise, though a similar attempt in the past by the Kolkata police fizzled out.

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Not only do these channels wield tremendous power on their own, but they also became practically untouchable by the law,
because it was very obvious that they were carrying on the agenda of the Modi government and hence were also
protected by the establishment. But Thackeray certainly seems more determined, especially after sending out a strong message to the media with the
arrest of Rahul Kulkarni.

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That arrest caused a sea change in the reporting of ABP since then, with their female anchors especially that of
Rubika Liyaqat, who too was playing by the script, accusing the Tablighi Jamaat for the spread of coronavirus cases in the
country. Her entire tone of reporting changed, with her categorically mentioning that the migrant laborers were not
Muslims and that they cannot be blamed for the spread of the virus, Taking a cue from all these FIR’s, an FIR was also filed against Sudhir Chaudhary of Zee TV, by the Kerala police
on May 7.

Rubika-Liyaqat

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There have always been good journalists and bad journalists in the past. Though some are cultivated by every ruling
party in the past, media still functioned as a unit and stood up for each other, when threatened by the establishment.
However, hardly any sympathy has been expressed by the media against these anchors though.
Press freedom has suffered drastically since 2014 with the advent of the Narendra Modi government, which went
about courting the national media so aggressively and forcefully that media reportage no longer focussed on-ground
reporting, of issues concerning the common man, whether it was rising unemployment, rising inflation, or the
collapsing economy.

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The only focus became carrying on the government’s agenda of spreading hatred and
communal disharmony, with scripted debates revolving around Hindu/Muslim and India/Pakistan.
The world was watching, but besides mild tut-tuts, the issues were side-lined, even that of Kashmir being locked up,
until recently when the neighboring Muslim countries are waking up against rising Islamophobia, which is
spreading to their countries as well.

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The Modi government has used tremendous brute power it enjoys indulging in whatever atrocities they were
triggered to commit, whether it was locking up Kashmir for months now, crushing anti-Citizenship Amendment Act
protests, ignoring the perpetrators of the Delhi riots, all of which were ignored by these channels and most print media.
The journalists who refused to bend were immediately pressured to be thrown out of jobs and the ones who crawled
when asked bent backward, were richly awarded government favors including government advertisements,
seemingly becoming invincible.

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Goswami, who was a prime time TV anchor with Times Now, was eventually shown the door by the Times bosses in
November 2016, after he got too big for the management to handle.
Just before one could heave a sigh of relief, at the exit of the journalist who made it fashionable to burst his spleen
every night on prime time, was back soon, with a brand new channel, called Republic TV. Help was extended by
the Bharatiya Janata Party MP Chandrasekhar, who helped him launch the channel just a few months later in May

Sudhir Chaudhary

2017, after getting a broadcasting license in months, when others wait for years for it.

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With his very first story attacking Congress MP Shashi Tharoor, followed by his attack on the chief minister of West
Bengal Mamata Banerjee, there was never a doubt about his mission.
His brand of journalism appealed to those who justified the communal disharmony as essential for the great
‘cleanse’ of the minority, and he ruled the TRP game for a couple of years until India Today took over a few days
back.

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This despite him upping his hate quotient on the channel, with his reportage of the Tablighi jamaat event which
happened in Delhi in March.
Devoid of any news on the central government’s readiness to deal with the Covid19 crisis, it created stories on how
Tablighi Jamaat was responsible for the spread of the virus instead.
State governments, even the ones from the opposition have been strangely silent over the years.

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It took a Uddhav Thackeray who was a silent partner of the BJP for years, to first work smartly with the National
Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar, to achieve the seemingly impossible task of wresting the power away from the BJP, to issue a strict warning to the media, against spreading communal disharmony would be arrested,
winning respect and applause for his efforts.
The threat became real with the arrest of Kulkarni.
The fact that Goswami managed to knock on the doors of the apex court, the same evening as the first lot of FIR’s
was filed against him in April and still managed to get the matter placed on board the very next morning when more
serious matters related to the Kashmir lockdown among the various issues are waiting to be heard by the apex court,
came as no surprise, it was a measure of how much power he wields, just by association with the power center.
Thackeray, however, did not let that stop him from filing the second FIR and also moving the apex court as well,
stating that undue pressure was being applied by the channel to pressurize the administration. They have stated that
Goswami was attempting to “browbeat” the Mumbai Police by “creating a fear psychosis”.

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The application also states that after Mumbai Police questioned Goswami for the FIR lodged against him, a show
aired on ‘Republic Bharat’ cast aspersions on the Mumbai Police by alleging that it was not investigating the FIR
lodged by Goswami, alleging that the Congress party had orchestrated an attack on him. Goswami had alleged that
two goone belonging to the youth congress had attacked him in the middle of the same night that FIR’s were filed
against him.

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The fact that the so-called attack happened a couple of hours after news of various FIR’s filed against him started
pouring in from across the country, the fact that he is the only journalist in the country who enjoys ‘Y’ category
security and that his security caught the goons, but let them off without handing them over to the local police
instead, with no visual footage, are huge red flags in a bizarre story. To the police’s credit, however, they did arrest
two people for the attack.

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The application asks for “a balance to be maintained between the rights of the petitioner as a senior journalist vis a
vis the prerogative of the investigating agency to conduct investigations into the crime as an arm of the law without
any fear, threat, or pressure.”
Substantiating that Goswami had clearly abused the journalistic freedom available to him under Article 19 (1)(a) of

Amish Devgun

the Constitution, the application states that “conduct of Goswami would tantamount to encroaching upon the area of
the investigation also subjecting the entire criminal justice system to ridicule.”

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Amish Devgan of News 18, too had an FIR filed against him, after he anchored a program where Muslims were
claimed to be offering namaz at a Masjid despite the lockdown. A video on the program also showed the Muslims
misbehaving with the police. It, however, turned out to be an old video from elsewhere, where the residents had a
show-down with local police patrolling the area.

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The FIR has been filed, despite news anchor Amish Devgan flashing a 30-second apology clip on screen for
running the false report, after the complaint was filed by the president of Indian National Transport Union Congress
(INTUC), Shahzad Khan. Sudhir Chaudhary of ZEE TV who has spent jail time in Tihar, Delhi, got into trouble
with the Kerala police, who have filed an FIR against him under non-bailable sections, for his report on March 11,
on the various kinds of jihad (holy war) committed by the Muslim community.

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If all these arrests happen, it would be the first since Emergency, that so many journalists find themselves behind
bars, for the same crime, which could weaken the fifth pillar of democracy in ‘normal’ times. But in today’s time,
where these anchors are acting less like responsible media personnel and indulging in hatchet jobs for the
the government instead, the arrests are the need of the hour to protect whatever little credibility that the media has and to
stem the communal disharmony that is earning India international disrepute!

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