After FIRs for Hate Speech, Arnab Goswami Will Be Back in the Studio… With SC Protection

Politics

After FIRs for Hate Speech, Arnab Goswami Will Be Back in the Studio… With SC Protection

Illustration: Reynold Mascarenhas

While the rest of the world grapples with the pandemic, India has a variety of other problems that include communal divides, poverty, and Arnab Goswami. All at the same time.

A lot has happened in the life of Arnab Goswami over the last few days. Besides dramatically but unexpectedly announcing that he was quitting the Editors’ Guild of India during a live broadcast on Republic TV – a body he didn’t really participate in – Goswami went on to claim that Congress leader Sonia Gandhi was likely “happy” about the barbaric Palghar mob lynching.

What followed was an even more dramatic video where Goswami claimed that he had been attacked by two men on a bike, and showed his car splashed with ink or black paint as evidence. He also claimed that the attackers had confessed to his security men that they were Youth Congress workers. Even as two men were apprehended in connection with the case, that didn’t deter Youth Congress members all across the country from filing FIRs against Goswami. A bunch of them are in Maharashtra alone, besides others in Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan, New Delhi, UP, and Jharkhand. Most of these FIRs were filed for “deliberately making inflammatory statements” against Sonia Gandhi.

The Supreme Court began its hearing of the petition today.

SC bench of justices DY Chandrachud and MR Shah has gone on to direct the Commissioner of Mumbai Police to give protection to the Republic TV Office and the petitioner, who must cooperate with the investigation. The Bench has also declared that “no coercive actions to be taken against him [Arnab Goswami] for two weeks” as they grant him three weeks protection.

“Court intends to protect the the petitioner for a period of three weeks from today & permit him to move anticipatory bail application before the trial court or high court. For a period of two weeks, the petitioner shall be protected against any coercive steps in relation to the FIRs arising out of the telecast that took place on April 21.”

Senior Advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for the state of Maharashtra, has stated that the claims made by Goswami during the live broadcast were provocative and has needlessly communalised the Palghar mob lynching. His comments against Congress President Sonia Gandhi were also vicious and was an attempt to tarnish her image. Sibal also termed that the the petition was based on “fake freedom of speech.” “You are creating communal violence by citing such statements,” he further argued.

Championing the same thought, Advocate Vivek Tankha, appearing for the state of Chhattisgarh, sought for a restraining order on Goswami for his statements. However, Justice Chandrachud opinionated, “Speaking for myself I believe there should be no restraint on the media. I am averse to imposing any restrictions on media.”

Arnab Goswami issued a video message expressing his gratitude towards the Supreme Court for giving him protection and for “upholding [his] Constitutional rights to report and broadcast and for defending [his] freedom of expression as a journalist”.

Arnab also states that the Congress party has threatened him and his channel for their Palghar reports, and that the party orchestrated an attack on him and his wife. While members of his own security staff claimed that the attackers were from the Youth Congress, further investigation led to their arrest for the incident, but no political affiliations were revealed.

However, the Press Council of India has condemned the assault against Goswami and issued a statement that “violence was not the answer even against bad journalism.”

The Supreme Court decision has outraged those who don’t agree with Goswami’s brand of journalism.

Journalist Shoma Choudhary points out that “free speech is right to have an opinion. Even distasteful ones. But fake facts & inciting violence is not free speech.”

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Manu Sebastian, Managing Editor of Live Law, is shocked by the “lies” on the affidavit.

The Supreme Court’s decision in determining the urgency of cases by listing Goswami’s petition as a priority has reasonably been unsettling.

Nikhil Inamdar, India Business Correspondent for BBC World, highlights the number of cases likely pending in the Indian court.

The outrage is legit. But for Arnab, it will be business as usual… with protection, of course.

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