How Low is Too Low? Republic TV “Journos” Arrested For Breaking Into Uddhav Thackeray’s Farmhouse

Social Commentary

How Low is Too Low? Republic TV “Journos” Arrested For Breaking Into Uddhav Thackeray’s Farmhouse

Illustration: Reynold Mascarenhas

During the relentless coverage of the Sushant Singh Rajput case over the last two months, journalism has been redefined in India. Some anchors have analysed WhatsApp chats on prime time, some anchors have done shows on black magic, some have interviewed delivery boys and others have accused postmen of demolishing Kangana’s building.

In a new low, among a long list of lows, three journalists associated with Republic Media Network were arrested on Wednesday for allegedly trespassing on Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray’s farmhouse in Khalapur in Raigad district.

The network has described the incident as a “massive clampdown on the right to report” and said that they will “fight for justice”.

Consulting Editor for Republic TV Pradeep Bhandari claimed that their reporter Anuj had been jailed for reporting an investigative story. He equated this event with the “Emergency” and said they will fight for their journalists and justice.

As reported by The Indian Express, the Raigad Police issued a statement saying that the “three suspicious persons” entered the premises illegally, following which they manhandled and threatened the security guard of the farmhouse.

The three were booked under IPC Sections 452 (house-trespass after preparation for hurt, assault or wrongful restraint); 448 (punishment for house-trespass); 323 (punishment for voluntarily causing hurt); 504 (intentional insult with intent to provoke breach of the peace); 506 (criminal intimidation) and 34 (common intention). They were produced before a court in Khalapur and remanded in police custody until September 14.

In a statement, the Republic network said, “The sequence of events, the nature of action and the motivated attempt to silence our reporters who pursue investigative stories reeks of vindictive, malicious and vengeful action by the Maharashtra government.” Denying the allegations of trespassing, the channel said, “Should the intent have been to ‘trespass’ as is being alleged, an official enquiry to a security guard at a residential gate would not have been made.”

“In a free democratic country, if a reporter near the chief minister’s house to pursue a story is put in jail for four days without legal representation, it is not only an obvious and blatant attack on the right to report, but also the most determined attack on media freedom in India,” it added.

However, not everyone is buying Republic’s holier-than-thou sermons on “investigative journalism”. Saurabh Gupta, bureau chief with NDTV pointed out that, “these guys tried to move in by force. They were arrested for trespassing. There is no clampdown on the right to report. We all report from the field and we never try to break into anyone’s home.”

Gupta pointed out that journalists and reporters must distinguish between “reporting” and “outright illegal and brazen acts”. He said the Republic TV people weren’t reporters, but goons trying to break into people’s homes, and that appropriate legal action isn’t a clampdown.

“This is not journalism and you cannot play the victim card after breaking the law so blatantly,” he added.

As the old adage goes, “rules are rules”. And even the “Republic” is not above them.