Senior journalist Arnab Goswami has been the national news sensation for quite a number of days, after he aired his strong views against interim Congress President Sonia Gandhi, and also reminded her of her country of origin. The tone in which Arnab Goswami puts forth his views is well known, and the same pitch was used against Sonia Gandhi. However, since no journalist should question the godmother of lethargic Indian politics prior to 2014, Congress goons took it upon themselves to teach Arnab Goswami a lesson.
Two motorcycle-borne Congress Youth workers attacked Arnab Goswami and his wife when the two were on their way home in the early hours of Thursday, the police said. Both the attackers have been arrested. This attack did not prevent the Republic TV journalist from recording two other videos (in English and Hindi) way past midnight, wherein he further obliterates Sonia Gandhi and the Congress for trying to silence him using physical harassment.
Almost instantly, social media erupted in support of the senior journalist and lakhs of people began lauding Arnab Goswami for the way he questioned the stony silence of Sonia Gandhi on the gruesome mob lynching of two Hindu sadhus in Palghar. The same Sonia Gandhi, who we know was weeping after seeing pictures of the Batla House encounter.
As a face-saver, bodies like the National Union of Indian Journalists and Press Council of India put out statements condemning the attack on the senior journalist, while also venting out their frustration on Goswami for not toeing the line of journalism which they think would serve the best interests of 10 Janpath. The Editors Guild of India, from which Arnab Goswami had recently resigned live on air, was the only body to call out the attack in strong words without any terms and conditions.
The Press Council of India, for instance, took it upon itself to judge the quality of Arnab Goswami’s journalism, and pass sly comments against it, irrespective of the fact that Goswami’s show on an average captures 40 to 50% of the market share alone. In a statement, the PCI first said, “Every citizen in the country, including a journalist, has the right to express their opinion which may not be palatable to many, but this does not give anybody the authority to strangulate such a voice.” It then went on to add, “Violence is not the answer even against bad journalism.”
Now while many might think that the PCI calling out Arnab Goswami for what it thinks is “bad journalism” is somehow a big deal, let me break it to you: The Press Council of India is a toothless organization, and just as spineless as they come. It has no authority whatsoever to judge a journalist like Arnab Goswami for his style of journalism. Prior to 2015, former Justice Markandey Katju presided as the Chairman of the council. It is presently presided over by Justice Chandramauli Kumar Prasad.
The Press Council of India has no authority over electronic and digital media, and its partial jurisdiction lies only in the field of print media, particularly newspapers. As such, it has absolutely no business telling a leading TV news anchor about the quality of journalism practised by him.
It is also a toothless organization, and has no punitive powers to take action against journalists who actually fall under its jurisdiction. Therefore, for it to assume a larger-than-thou role for itself, and pass loose comments on the journalism pervading in the electronic or digital media, is an overreach, to say the least.
According to Kartik Sharma, the Council can investigate and issue a report. It also can “warn, admonish, censure or disapprove” those it finds at fault, but it has no powers to enforce nor impose any penalty on individual journalists and publications. Further, it can investigate only print media houses and journalists, and has no business turning its eyes to the electronic or digital media.
In a press release dated 14.04.2020, the Council itself admitted that it has no jurisdiction in the media industry, apart from the print media. The statement said, “Electronic media, TV News channels, social media, i.e., WhatsApp/Twitter/Facebook do not come under the jurisdiction of the Press Council of India.”
As such, for the Press Council of India to state that Arnab Goswami’s journalism is ‘bad’ not only exposes them as desperately frustrated with the anchor’s immense success, but it also gives the people an opportunity to remind the irrelevant Council that they should focus on areas which fall under their jurisdiction, and not poke their heads in fields they have no business being in.
Arnab Goswami has not discovered a newfound dislike for the Congress party and the Gandhi family a few months ago. For those who have been watching Goswami for years, it is a known fact that the man has been taking the dynasty head-on for their malpractices, large-scale corruption and nepotism since 2010, way before the BJP was in the race to dethrone the status-quo political party from power in 2014. Arnab Goswami has been at the forefront in exposing large scams like CWG, 2G, Aadarsh, Coalgate and others.
Further, he has changed the very dynamics of electronic media in India. English media, prior to Goswami’s Phoenix-like rise, was seen only as the media of the ‘elite’. Arnab Goswami has done a favour for India by democratizing English news media and making everyone hooked to his 9 PM show, previously in Times Now, and now at Republic. He might have many flaws, but the PCI is a nobody when it comes to judging the quality of journalism practised by anybody in electronic or digital media.