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‘We Can’t Condone Police Action On Any Journalist’

Not talk about Arnab Goswami? That was not an option, says Seema Mustafa, president, Editor’s Guild. That would only have imperilled all other unfairly detained journalists.

‘We Can’t Condone Police Action On Any Journalist’
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Media has lost people’s trust and support, says Seema Mustafa, president of the Editors Guild of India (EGI), in an interview to Outlook on the spate of arrests of journalists. Excerpts

Do you think press freedom is getting muzzled?

There have been many arrests, intimidation, and attacks on on-duty journalists. This amounts to creating a sense of fear among journalists and it interrupts independent and fair functioning of media. This needs to be urgently addressed.

The Guild was prompt in its reaction to Arnab Goswami’s arrest.

We should learn to look at issues dispassionately. The Guild took a clear stand about the arrest procedure. We didn’t demand his release or question the case. As journalists, we cannot condone police actions. If one condones it on the grounds of non-journalism practised by Goswami, how do we support other journalists who are unfairly detained? This is the problem of polarisation…If I dislike one journalist I want the Guild to write a hysterical and emotional counter. Then what happens to journalists you like but others don’t? We want a system independent of individual likes and dislikes. Most journalists have been arrested on sedition charges and for their social media posts… as if they were criminals. We don’t want police action on any journalist, we cannot condone this.

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Arnab Goswami, the Republic TV editor-in-chief, after his arrest in a case of abetting a suicide. He has moved the Supreme Court for bail after the high court refused to.

How will one ensure media to function fairly when it often faces the wrath of ruling dispensations for any criticism?

This conflict has been there always. What is happening now has a qualitative difference. There is a complete dilution of media ethics. We are losing people’s respect. We are supposed to be writing for the people, for the marginalised, and for the disadvantaged. But we are moving away from them to the powerful. Journalists were protected by the people. Because of the kind of journalism we see on TV…we have lost people’s support. And so, it has become easy for the political class to keep a steady onslaught on innocent journalists, and muzzle the press with arrests and intimidation.

How can media revive people’s trust?

Journalists have to work for independent journalism. We have to let corporates know that they don’t own us. We have to stand up to political pressure. Those at the helm have to bring back free-and-fair journalism and be united for press freedom..

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