Why was an FIR Filed Against Mr. Goswami?
On February 9, the Patiala House Court ordered Delhi Police to register a First Information Report (FIR) against Arnab Goswami, the editor-in-chief of Republic TV. The FIR was lodged against the channel and Mr. Goswami after a complaint was filed by Indian politician, acclaimed writer and Chairman of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on External Affairs Mr. Shashi Tharoor pertaining to the probe into the death of his wife Sunanda Pushkar. Goswami was allegedly accused by Tharoor on two grounds- important documents regarding the case being “stolen” and aired for public views while the case is ongoing and hacking Mr. Tharoor’s email account. Renowned journalist Mr. Goswami was charged with a civil and a criminal defamation suit.
On January 21, Metropolitan Magistrate Dharmender Singh asked the officer of the concerned police station to lodge an FIR and initiate an investigation after hearing Tharoor’s version. The orders were uploaded on 8th February, as the Outlook reported. Announcing the date for further hearing as April 4, the judge said, “This court is of the considered view that in view of allegations levelled by Tharoor and material produced on record in the form of RTI [Right To Information] replies and other material, matter discloses commission of cognizable offence and in view of this court, matter requires investigation by police as it is not clear how said material came in the possession of proposed accused persons,” as reported by Scroll.in.
It was noted by the court that Tharoor had previously started a case against the channel and the editor Mr. Goswami at the Delhi High Court regarding defamatory remarks and accusations. Vikas Pahwa, a senior advocate who is appearing for Tharoor remarked that the documents in possession of the channel and aired by the editor were collected and recorded solely for investigation purpose. Those materials were confidential and thus possessing it and making it public was an illegal gesture by the concerned media channel. In Tharoor’s complaint it was further added, “in an attempt to increase the viewership of their news channel deliberately, made malicious and defamatory remarks against complainant“.
Arnab Goswami’s Statement
In a tweet by the Republic Channel, Arnab Goswami’s statement regarding the FIR said, “Accessing documents to reveal the truth is integral to Journalism. I am proud that we have done so and that because of our investigative journalism, the Sunanda Pushkar case is under scrutiny. I will fight this matter in the courts and I am absolutely convinced that the people of India will stand by us as we continue on the path of journalism that stands for the nation”
Media Industry’s Reaction
The FIR against Mr. Goswami called for a celebration for many in the media industry and especially for Arnab Goswami critics. The shared happiness within the media industry pertaining to this issue is primarily because of the collective sense of antipathy towards his discourse of journalism. Celebrated journalist Barkha Dutt in her tweet wrote: “This man has routinely tarnished journalists and even called for their trial and arrest. I won’t shed a tear for him facing criminal action for his dangerous, communal and vile reportage.”
Despite the fact that Arnab Goswami’s debates are problematic on various grounds for instance not allowing panelists to put forward their opinions at times and his practice of journalism flawed at various levels; the legal action against a journalist for releasing documents that upholds the truth in the course of pursuing investigative journalism undoubtedly questions the freedom of press in the larger context. Though the issue of hacking is completely unacceptable under any circumstances even in the course of pursuing investigative journalism, it must be kept in mind that it is through fearless investigative journalism many cases in the past involving influential people have been uncovered as facts in the hands of police and government oftentimes get buried with the monetary power of said influential people. Investigative journalism should definitely have a borderline, but too much restraining will definitely prove press freedom to be a sham.
Sources- Scroll.in , Bar & Bench , Outlook, The Logical Indian, The Hush Post , NewsBytes, Wikipedia.
Image Credits- OpIndia, Scroll.in, Rightlog, Indian Express