By Krishna Jha
An unprecedented gloom has been setting over in our hitherto unblemished skies. All pervasive, suffocating. Since last nine years, right from 2014, there is all out destruction of everything positive. And it does get noticed. The sentinels of media convey to country how pillars are crumbling. Manipur incidents could be shared only after three months, but when it did, it shook the world. The stream continues to flow overcoming the deterrents. For the very sense of awareness about our link with the world, with evolution, or its negation, we are indebted to media. Slowly, media has started occupying the space that it has always deserved. But not for long. Media must be tamed if it has to be ‘His Master’s voice’, this fact has gone deep for those in the power game. All other options are getting removed from the scene.
There has simply been no carrot and neither stick, there is left only the existential question. It has been also experimenting with readymade definitions, to “snare” the Indian media. Ten years are gone in giving it shape, in the name of objective journalism. The effort has been to cover the entire mainstream journalism, with the explicit purpose to create wedge. Wedge in unity. The result is our country is in shambles. Composite culture stands crushed as has been the Constitution. Health, education, availability of essentials, unemployment and finally freedom to think, all that humanity needs stand challenged. Media is no exception to it.
The Centre has been keen to use media to present each and every act of the government packaged in shining praise for all the twenty four hours. But it needs compromise on positions. Weak alternatives have been flooding the entire world of news in news portals and YouTube channels. The regime, or the Centre of power, nervous at its own plight, wants only easy options. One of the choices has been majoritarian communal ideological agenda and the accompanying politics with Big Capital.
However, the efforts stood meaningless. Apparently invincible, in reality, it has been almost failing to be in full control. Media has remained unbending, following its ethics, undeterred.
The examples are there. NewsClick, one of them, was launched in 2009 by veteran Indian journalist Prabir Purkayastha. It speaks about itself as “one of India’s most consistent chroniclers of diverse people’s movements and struggles.”
Nobody is denying that the case against NewsClick must run its course, but it must be based on evidence. The brazen attempt to create scare, with imposing UAPA, taking away the devices like mobile, laptop does not take the attempt anywhere. While framing the charge, the Delhi police said, “A total of 37 male suspects, and nine female have been questioned.” The way it has been written putting the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act against them does not bode well. The ominous shadow hangs over many others as well.
Journalists and media outlets, almost everywhere, all over the world, are raising questions about press freedom and their ability to work without the “threat of reprisal” especially after police raided in the Indian capital on October 3, 2023, the offices and homes of journalists working for NewsClick, and keeping up its independence as digital news outlet.
The same pattern was repeated as in all tyrannical systems. There were the early morning knocks. Rude and repetitive. Unprepared, vulnerable, one faces the threat. Then the victim is taken over, without explanation, without evidence.
The demonstrators in New York, against the oppressive attitude of the Indian government attacking news portal NewsClick had placards that said it was McCarthyism. They were expressing their refusal to accept the status offered to press in India. It is no more the fourth estate. Government is no more answerable to it. In fact McCarthyism is the political practice of publicizing accusations of disloyalty or subversion with insufficient regard to evidence, and the use of methods of investigation and accusation regarded as unfair, in order to suppress opposition. Evidence is the last thing provided in NewsClick case, a practice that has started after their failure to gain grounds. In fact it is the same fear, to get over which, McCarthy had set the rule of scare. But the day also came when MacCarthy, the chairman of the Senate Permanent Investigation Subcommittee in US, conducting hearing on subversion was censured by American senate on December 2, 1954, and he died on December 2, 1957.
Evidence is imperative. The courts are making it increasingly clear that they are not impressed with the way the Central agencies are proceeding with action against their victims. Going by the sharpness in the courts’ remarks, it seems that the day may not be far when the selective manner which the law is taking, as claimed by the ruling party politicians, or allowed to take its course, is questioned by the courts.
In almost the same fashion, the Delhi High Court on October 6, 2023 asked the Delhi police why the NewsClick founder Prabir Purkayastha and his HR manager Amit Chakravarty were not provided the rationale for their arrest, which as they claimed was within their right to know as every accused has, according to Supreme Court directive. The High Court then cited Supreme Court decisions that those getting arrested have a right to know why they are being arrested. The last couple of days have seen the central agencies getting into what appears to be ‘crash programme’ of raids at multiple locations in several states. Ahead of the coming assembly and later parliamentary elections the ruling BJP is finding itself increasingly vulnerable. It is the growing strength of the consolidation of the anti-Modi parties and elements that has become the threat. Media is not alone in this, it is for all those who have a voice. And know how to raise it. (IPA Service)