On the 1st day of August, the grand old party of India decided to hold a press conference chaired by MP Shashi Tharoor. Having sent invitations to all media (including Republic Tv), it sure came as a shock to the country when journalists of Republic Tv were denied entry to the press conference. Widespread speculation suggests that the orders to block Republic’s entry into the conference came directly from Sonia Gandhi or Tharoor. However,led by Arnab Goswami himself, the team of journalists surely did not budge to the pressure and persuaded officials of the Congress to allow them entry to the conference.
The Congress, on the other hand was in no mood of entertaining such pleas and soon came into action the bouncers of the Congress, who immediately flexed their muscles and manhandled, heckled, gagged and shoved away the Republic TV journalists. The women journalists too were manhandled by these goons. Arnab was quick to go live and give instructions to his team on how to handle the goons. Having been thrown out of the AICC headquarters, the team of Republic Tv fumed at the kind of behavior meted out to them and staged a silent protest right at the AICC entrance.
This act of the Congress soon grabbed national attention and reactions started pouring in support of Republic Tv.
They were also, trending at the top spot on twitter for the day. The Congress surely didn’t expect such repercussions to their act. The Republic crew was so agitated that it filed an FIR against the Congress for manhandling, assaulting and curbing the freedom of media and not allowing it to ask questions.
The same Congress party, which preaches “freedom of speech and expression”, “freedom of press” and considers itself the messiah of Indian democracy, shamelessly assaulted journalists just because they were too scared of Republic Tv, even before it asked any questions. Does the Congress call a press conference and expect the whole media industry to have a convivial conversation with them with both sides praising each other and patting each other’s backs? If it is so scared of answering questions, why does it call a press conference at all?
Moreover, when Prannoy Roy and NDTV were raided, the Congress cried its heart out claiming that the present government was trying to curb and influence ‘independent’ media. Why did their attitude change for Republic Tv? Just because it exposed Shashi Tharoor, Robert Vadra’s land deals, Bofors, etc.? The job of the media is exactly that!.
Also, Arnab asked the following three questions to Sonia Gandhi:
- Why is the Congress scared of letting Shashi Tharoor face a single question on Sunanda, what is their paranoia?
- After the “private citizen” defence of Robert Vadra, has the Congress officially come out in support of Tharoor in the Sunanda case?
- On what basis can any political party block a licensed news channel in a free country from its press conferences? Its plain and downright illegal. Duck our questions if you can, but blocking us makes me believe that a part of the emergency spirit is still alive in the Congress, 32 years after they unleashed it on India.
The third point which Arnab makes is very important and interesting. The Congress has no right to deny a media group/person entry to it’s news briefing. Being a political party, it cannot behave like a private company or club which has it’s own rules of media interaction. Everyone has the right to ask questions. It’s that simple. Moreover, Republic Tv was sent an invitation to attend the press conference. Ironic isn’t it?
The silence of the Lutyen’s media is meanwhile deafening. There was not one journalist who stood up against the goondaism of the Congress. None of them had the courtesy to object to the behavior to which Republic crew was subjected. Moreover, the journalists who attended the press conference did not have the sense to ask at least one question to Tharoor over the Sunanda case, which is now wide open. The conference was a fixed match, where the Congress was given the easiest deliveries to play. Few of the Lutyen’s journalists came out and blamed Republic Tv and Arnab for the scenario, saying that Arnab never stands with the lutyen’s media. One of the journalist gave the example of NDTV firing 700 employees, and that Arnab didn’t protest the move. The journo fails to comprehend the basic logic that NDTV is a private organization and INC is a national political party. Meanwhile, being the man, he is, Arnab Posed the following questions to Lutyen’s media:
1) Will they give the Congress party a written promise not to ask any inconvenient questions?
2) Will they react with the same submissive spirit if the BJP or the AAP throws them out of press conferences?
3) How did the reporters who were happily caged in the press conference room with Shashi Tharoor feel when they saw the new-age Republic TV reporters being assaulted outside?
4) Does Lutyens agree that access to Congress press conferences should come with a caveat – not to ask a question that embarrasses the Congress?
5) Where are the candle-light marches and JNU-type vigils tonight? Too much to ask? :)
Probably the Lutyen’s media will realize this only when their journalists are thrown out of press conferences. As for the Congress, such behavior is totally fine and they are not an attack on Press and Press Freedom.