Locking Up Journalists for Doing Their Jobs Sends Clear Message – Pange Mat Lo!
The message for journalists from the people in power is clear – Pange Mat Lo! Else you will be taught a lesson.
Video Producer: Aparna Singh
Video Editors: Puneet Bhatia & Prajjwal Kumar
Yeh Jo India Hai Na.. yahan journalists ko sabak sikhaya ja raha hai. Journalists across India, are being taught a lesson.
You may be Mohammed Zubair, you may be Rohit Ranjan, you may be Siddique Kappan, you may be Sanaa Irshad Mattoo, you may be Arnab Goswami, you may be Rana Ayyub or Aakar Patel, you may be Aasif Sultan, Fahad Shah, or Sajad Gul, you may be Ajit Ojha, Digvijay Singh or Manoj Gupta, but the message for all these journalists from the central and several state governments, from investigation agencies and police forces, and from some law courts too, is clear and direct – Pange Mat Lo!
That’s what ties these journalists together – inhone pange liye, and now they are paying a price.
Mohammed Zubair has been in custody since 27 June, for sharing a satirical tweet in 2018, related to a 40 year old movie clip, that was then fully cleared by India’s censor board. And for calling out the hate speech of Bajrang Muni, who publicly threatened Muslim women with kidnap and rape.
But why is calling out the hate of such a person, a crime? Even more so, for a journalist? It's his job!
But because Zubair did his job, he has been in police custody, judicial custody, he has been bundled in and out of police vehicles, has been made to appear in various courts, has had to put up multiple appeals for bail, has been vilified by government-aligned media.
And the irony is, those who made hate speeches, they faced FIRs, they were arrested, and released, while the journalist who reported on those very hate speeches, is now in custody!
Zubair is also known for his fact-checking, which is rigorous, and unbiased. He has exposed misinformation and disinformation by political parties from across the spectrum but because his work is so inconvenient, because it exposes hate, lies, and misinformation and therefore he needs to be taught a lesson.
But then, why no arrest, no police custody, no court ke chakkar for Arun Yadav? Like Mohammed Zubair, why is Arun Yadav not being paraded around like a criminal?
Arun Yadav was the Haryana Bharatiya Janata Party IT Cell head. He has 6 lakh followers on Twitter, and in 2017, he put out a tweet insulting Prophet Muhammad. But while he has been removed from his post by the party, he is still a free man. Why has the police spared him?
Sorry for the whataboutery… but yeh to badi na-insaafi hai milord! Ek tweet ke liye ek journalist custody mein, bail bhi naseeb nahi aur kisi aur tweet ke liye, another man is relaxing, at home!
Sanna Irshad Mattoo may well be a Pulitzer Prize winner, but for being a photojournalist from Kashmir, for bringing out the harsh realities of the valley – be it the militancy, the bandhs, the funerals, the omnipresence of the security forces, the daily hardships of the people – Sanna too needs to be shown her place.
In early July she was stopped at the Delhi airport from travelling to France for a photo exhibition, despite having a valid visa. She was given no reason.
Should Sanna point her camera only at Kashmir’s apples, shikaras, and snow?
Being a journalist in Jammu and Kashmir is a huge challenge, caught in the crossfire of militants, security forces, and politicians of all hues.
Journalists Aasif Sultan since 2018, and Fahad Shah and Sajad Gul since early 2022, are in jail because the administration was not happy with their reporting.
In each case just when bail was granted or was imminent, they were charged under the draconian Public Safety Act, which makes bail almost impossible. In comparison, Sanna has been lucky. No jail, sirf France jaana cancel.
Next, Ajit Ojha, Digvijay Singh and Manoj Gupta who spent 28 days in jail. Poocho kyon?
Because they reported on the leak of two UP board exam papers in Ballia. But showing the district administration in a bad light did not go down well.
The police arrested the three journalists on criminal charges of having leaked the papers themselves. It took 28 days to convince the judge that the police had no evidence against them, lekin tab tak sabhi local journalists ne sabak seekh liya tha – Pange Mat Lo!
In fact, lets talk about this phrase – The Process Is the Punishment – which is perhaps the formula being followed.
The focus is not on evidence, it's not on going to trial, or getting convictions, when it comes to cases involving journalists (or even stand-up comedians, climate change activists, civil and human rights activists for that matter).
The focus is on harassment. Harass karo, itna harass karo ki journalist ka manobal toot jaaye. Break the journalists’ will to tell stories that matter, to tell stories that perhaps embarrass those in power, that use facts, data, and documents to ask tough questions. Shut such journalism down.
And it’s a ploy that netas across the spectrum seem ready to use. A few days ago, we saw Chhattisgarh police turn up to arrest Zee News journalist Rohit Ranjan for airing misleading video clips about Rahul Gandhi, despite Ranjan airing an apology about it.
But the Ghaziabad and Noida police picked up Ranjan on a smaller charge, later releasing him, essentially saving him from being taken away to Raipur.
In 2021 too Republic TV head Arnab Goswami was picked up by Mumbai Police in a similar detain and harass drama. All these police forces were seemingly kow-towing to their respective political bosses. But that’s unacceptable.
I may not agree with Arnab’s brand of journalism, but he cannot be harassed in this manner, nor any journalist for that matter.
But then, Yeh Jo India Hai Na, yahan, as we can see, the process, has become the punishment. For every journalist who is harassed, jailed, vilified in a very public manner, a 100 journalists may think twice before taking on the powers that be. Isse kehte hain – chilling effect! Its now up to the journalists, to give in, or show some spine.
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