There are issues with the manner in which the chief editor of Republic TV, Arnab Goswami, conducts his journalism, which the left wing has serious differences with and which the right is not wholly comfortable with either. That is, however, not reason enough for the side he mostly supports to sulk over at this critical juncture when Goswami has been accused, in an FIR, of abetting the suicide of an interior decorator. In all likelihood, the famous television news anchor is being framed to bring disrepute to his channel. This is where the proponents and supporters of alternative media must prove they have a semblance of what has come to be known as an “ecosystem”. It’s the kind of ecosystem that saw the entire left wing stand in solidarity with NDTV India when they made a mistake as serious as giving away the details of sensitive installations of the Army at a time of an anti-terrorist operation. It’s the kind of ecosystem that witnessed a remarkable bonhomie among journalists when NDTV’s head Prannoy Roy was alleged by state investigating agencies to have misappropriated funds. On all such occasions, the left is never found wanting in displaying their unity, much as the left is not a monolith with all its operatives functioning under one umbrella. In contrast, it does not even take the left to damage the crabs of the right. Insecure about the success of a fellow-traveller, every now and then, some media house — often a start-up — or a cantankerous Twitter handle throws muck at the perceived competition from within the right-wing camp. And then, the one targeted hits back with slanderous remarks of an equally revolting degree. Thus, no such thing as an ecosystem is born in the right wing. At best, some lawyers help nationalistic causes with their public interest litigations. There too, the left is far more powerful, supported by funds from non-government organisations based in Europe and the United States and closet Christian, purportedly secular media houses.
Arnab Goswami’s differences with knowledgeable Hindus — say, on the issue of Sabarimala or Shani Shingnapur — is not greater than that between, say, the CPI, CPI(M), Forward Bloc, the Revolutionary Socialist Party, CPI(ML) and other communist organisations. The anchor of television debates, who struggled to make a mark on NDTV, thanks to sharper — though blatantly biased — Rajdeep Sardesai and Barkha Dutt, created a niche in the market of news and views consumers by filling a void that was too obvious. He consciously toed a nationalistic line, which was out of fashion in the 1990s’ Star News, Rupert Murdoch’s channel for which NDTV, then a mere production house, created programmes. Of course, Goswami’s style on Times Now, which he continues with on Republic TV, of shutting the mouths that voice contrarian views by outshouting them, lacks finesse. An NDTV in the place of TN or RT would rather render the viewpoint of the right ineffective by inviting obtuse spokespersons of the RSS and BJP who would lose their cool and thus lose the debate. That notwithstanding, the audience loved the change. An overlap of the same set of Indians also loves the views portals that would defend Prime Minister Narendra Modi, a maverick Subramanian Swamy or everything obviously or remotely ‘Hindu’, whatever be the merits of individual cases! That large section of the Indian population needs representation in the media. Even if it is argued that Goswami is providing that essential voice for purely marketing reason, his utility for this constituency cannot be overstated. He is the only one on the job at the moment holding that ground in mainstream media.
As for the case where a financially distressed person ended his life, as Goswami, along with two other accused, did not allegedly pay his dues, Section 306 of the Indian Penal Code applicable to a complaint of abetment to suicide hardly applies. The prosecutor can establish neither the claim that the accused instigated the now dead man to commit suicide nor the assertion that the involvement of the accused in the case was direct. If non-receipt of dues causes suicide, the Union and State governments will turn out to be repeat offenders, as they are the largest entities that outsource work to private enterprises while taking the state’s own sweet time to make the payments agreed upon. Nevertheless, a court requires a defence lawyer to make the point forcefully. While Goswami has more than enough resources to hire a competent advocate for the purpose, the reputation of a person can be affected beyond measure on social media. That is where all users of Twitter, Facebook and other networking sites who believe the journalist is useful must stand in solidarity with him. He may not reciprocate by desisting from defaming a competitor or peer on grounds as flimsy as the allegation against him, but that is his dharma. You must perform yours.