In what comes as yet another shocking development epitomising the stifling of free media by an authoritarian regime desperately clinging on to power by suppressing the voice of dissenters, Mumbai Police has now booked the entire editorial team of Republic TV, as claimed by the media network. The naming of Republic TV’s entire editorial staff by Mumbai Police is an unprecedented attack on press freedom, even as the state administration makes it a life mission to jeopardise the professional careers and livelihoods of all staff associated with Republic TV. In fact, the financial capital’s police seem to have concentrated all their energies towards taking down senior journalist Arnab Goswami and his Republic Media Network.
Republic TV has been on the hitlist since its aggressive coverage over the lynching of sadhus in Maharashtra’s Palghar, where police personnel were seen giving up the sadhus to a blood-thirsty mob in order for them to be lynched to death. Then, Arnab Goswami’s relentless pursuit of the possible foul play angles involved in the death of Sushant Singh Rajput also irked the state government. When Mumbai Police Commissioner Param Bir Singh came out with his press conference announcing the busting of a major “TRP scam”, Indians witnessed first-hand how law enforcement agencies were being used by the rulers of the state to intimidate a media network not even named in the original FIR filed in the case of TRP riggings.
“All 1000 employees of the network have been booked by the Mumbai Police, including top editors of the Network. The Mumbai police has booked the case for a serious non-bailable offence for incitement to disaffection among members of the Police Force and defaming Mumbai Police – under sections 500 and 34 of IPC,” a Republic report on the matter read. Reacting to the shocking development, Arnab Goswami no less than challenged Sharad Pawar and Uddhav Thackeray for a one-on-one with him on television.
This comes days after the Mumbai Police Commissioner launched a visible vendetta campaign against Republic TV and its editorial and executive staff. First, a reporter from Republic was arrested by Mumbai Police for approaching Uddhav Thackeray’s farmhouse. Then, Pradeep Bhandari too was detained in clear signs of intimidation. Niranjan Narayanswamy and Abhishek Kapoor, Executive Editors at Republic TV too were summoned, and questioned about their sources who provided the channel with the Hansa report in the TRP racket.
Crossing all limits of absurdity, and realising that mere summoning of journalists and Republic management was having no effect on the media network, Mumbai Police also took to asking Republic Media’s CFO S Sundaram to submit details of every transaction, and detail of every journalist associated with the Network over the past three years, within 12 hours no less. The details sought by the team include costs of coffee vending machine, air-conditioning equipment, furniture, gardening, makeup, suits and even hairbrush, toilet paper, tissue papers, A4 paper and other stationery items. In a similarly hilarious stunt earlier, the Maharashtra Assembly had moved a privilege motion against Arnab Goswami, and asked him to appear before a committee of the legislative assembly within ten minutes.
By naming all of Republic TV’s editorial staff in a complaint, the Mumbai Police has effectively tried to jeopardise the careers of even those who are not even minutely connected with the decision-making process at the media house. This shows how low some can fall in order to simply satiate their own vendetta against a senior journalist whose style the state government seems to dislike. To ask for minutest details relating to the media network’s functioning over the past three years is pure harassment, to say the least, and bears an eerie resemblance to when the Emergency was imposed across India. The media, then too, was subverted first.