Journalists & activists must not be subjected to police harassment and injustice.
Freedom of expression is the backbone of democracy and is guaranteed by our constitution. Press freedom is derived from this guarantee .Time and again different governments have tried to either contain this freedom or gag the voice of media worst of it was seen during emergency imposed by then prime minister Mrs. Indira Gandhi. After that too many attempts were made to frame laws containing this freedom but were opposed by media persons and opposition parties too including BJP. Of course there are certain laws in IPC where violation of this freedom that may cause social unrest enemity among communities etc. is contained so no special law to gag the voice of media is needed. Credit goes to Modi Amit Shah brand of politics and governance that they have succeeded in making media “His Masrter’s Voice” and crushing ruthlessly fearless and uncompromising journalists who performed their duties in accordance to the undeclared oath & journalistic ethics of standing with down trodden and becomes the voice of voiceless.
The recent FIRs against some eminent and senior most journalists including Mr. Zafar Agha, Ms. Mrinal Pandey etc. and Congress MP Mr. Shashi Tharoor for their so called “misleading “report on the Republic day violence in Delhi during Farmers tractor rally. So many FIRs have been lodged against them in many cities of MP and UP. It is clear instance of fishing for malice where there is none. A young freelance journalist Mandip Punia was also arrested by Delhi police while he was reporting the incidents during farmers stir at Singhu border on 28th January. Police thinks that all those who have put some information regarding violence at red fort (which they had even withdrew after knowing the fact of a farmer’s death after his tractor skidded) as a part of conspiracy. They were deemed to be acting in concert and even participating in the conspiracy hence section 120 B has been invoked against them. All these people are eminent journalists and responsible citizens who have carved a niche for them in their profession. Only a fool will consider them anti national and conspirator. It will be worth mentioning what father of nation Mahatma Gandhi has said about freedom and essentially for freedom of expression. ”Freedom is not worth having, if it does not connote freedom to err. It passes my comprehension how human beings, be they ever so experienced and able can delight in depriving other human beings of that precious right” wrote Bapu.
The police had invoked the offences of sedition, conspiracy, promotion of enmity between communities and breach of harmony between group of people. Sedition charges have actually become a joke under BJP government as this charge has been invoked against political opponents and critics of this government every now and then to the extent that they have perhaps exceeded the number that were registered before 2014 beginning from independence in 1947.Opposition to the government and criticism of its policies is branded as antinational and sometime anti Hindu also. The police invoke section 124 A of the IPC (sedition) at the slightest pretext. It is the part of the familiar practice of BJP governments. Weaving a narrative of an imaginal threat to national security whenever the police get opportunity to slap criminal cases against journalists and dissenters seen as critical of this regime. Not only journalists and political opponents but even artists, poets, writers, performers etc. all are targeted if they open their mouth against government or ruling dispension.
The registration of cases against these journalists at different places and faraway from the site of incident is an attempt to build a narrative that “misreporting” by the journalists led to some violence which was reported. It clearly indicates that the purpose of these FIRs is to harass these journalists. It also shows a tendency not to miss any opportunity to harass and intimidate not only journalists but anyone who slightly differ with this government and raises the voice of dissent.
Unfortunately, our courts too have more or less failed in protecting this fundamental right of our people including journalists. In most of the cases bail is denied to them and they languish in jails for months but journalists close to regime get bail instantly and that too directly from Highest Court. Mandip Punia was immediately sent to jail on remand whereas his bail application is to be heard after few days of his arrest. Siddiq Kappan and many like him arrested under draconian laws are languishing in jail for months. Their bail application is sent to one court from other. Many social activists even aged sick and weak are not granted bail even after years. Courts are forgetting their own ruling that bail is the right of accused.
The Supreme Court last year while granting bail to an infamous TV anchor very close to this regime has argued that “the courts remain the first line of defence against the deprivation of liberty of citizen” and that the deprivation of liberty even for a day is one day too many” but unfortunately the same court in case of Siddiq Kappan has not shown any urgency and sent back his bail application to High court. This double standard naturally raises the question of impartiality of the courts. The role of the judiciary as the custodian and defender of constitution is more important and urgent in present circumstances when the regime is hell bent upon crushing every voice of dissent and upholding the fundamental and human rights of a section of our population. The court is very sensitive to its own criticism and clamps down on its critics under contempt of court provisions, but is reluctant to intercede on behalf of journalists and activists charged under draconian laws or teenagers jailed for sloganeering, it readily agrees with the prosecution. If justice is subject to political and religious affiliations only God could save our democracy.