Republic TV’s Arnab Goswami was arrested today in a two-year-old suicide case in which investigations were reopened recently, the Mumbai police said. Several Union Ministers are among those who have condemned the arrest as an attack on press freedom, with Information and Broadcasting Minister Prakash Javadekar calling it a reminder of the Emergency.
“We condemn the attack on press freedom in Maharashtra. This is not the way to treat the Press. This reminds us of the emergency days when the press was treated like this,” Prakash Javadekar tweeted as reports emerged of Arnab Goswami’s arrest.
Mr Goswami claimed he was manhandled and assaulted by the police at his Mumbai home before being pushed into their van.
We condemn the attack on press freedom in #Maharashtra. This is not the way to treat the Press. This reminds us of the emergency days when the press was treated like this.@PIB_India@DDNewslive@republic
— Prakash Javadekar (@PrakashJavdekar) November 4, 2020
News agency ANI quoted him as saying that Mumbai Police “physically assaulted his mother-in-law and father-in-law, son and wife”. In videos aired by Republic TV, policemen were seen holding him as they were attempting to take him away.
The Republic Editor-in-Chief has been arrested for allegedly abetting the suicide of a 53-year-old interior designer, Anvay Naik, and his mother, in 2018.
The designer had reportedly named Arnab Goswami in a suicide note and had accused Republic TV of not paying him his dues.
In May, Maharashtra Home Minister Anil Deshmukh had announced that the suicide was being reinvestigated after a fresh complaint by Adnya Naik, his daughter. Mr Deshmukh had claimed that Adnya believed the Alibaug police had not investigated Republic’s role in the non-payment of dues, which, she claimed, drove her father and grandmother to suicide in May 2018.
The arrest comes in the middle of Mr Goswami’s row with the Mumbai Police over its investigations into a ratings scam and allegations that Republic TV is among three channels involved in manipulating TRPs or Television Rating Points by bribing households metred for viewership. The editor had accused the police of harassing his colleagues and pursuing a vendetta over his channel’s criticism of Mumbai Police’s handling of the Sushant Singh Rajput case.
Maharashtra’s ruling Shiv Sena denied any agenda behind the arrest. “The law is followed in Maharashtra. Police can take action if they have evidence against anyone. Since the formation of the Uddhav Thackeray government, no action has been taken against anyone for revenge,” said senior Sena leader Sanjay Raut.
The early morning arrest fueled a deluge of posts on social media, with members of the ruling BJP alleging “fascism” by Maharashtra’s Shiv Sena-led coalition.
“Shades of the Emergency! The arrest of Arnab Goswami is an attack on the freedom of press. Those who really believe in this freedom must speak up!” – tweeted Foreign Minister S Jaishankar.
Shades of the Emergency!
The arrest of Arnab Goswami is an attack on the freedom of press. Those who really believe in this freedom must speak up!
— Dr. S. Jaishankar (@DrSJaishankar) November 4, 2020
Those in the free press who don’t stand up today in support of Arnab, you are now tactically in support of fascism. You may not like him, you may not approve of him,you may despise his very existence but if you stay silent you support suppression. Who speaks if you are next ?
— Smriti Z Irani (@smritiirani) November 4, 2020
— Sushil Kumar Modi (@SushilModi) November 4, 2020
Mr Goswami was taken to Alibaug after his arrest, the police said.
The Editors’ Guild of India expressed shock. “We condemn the sudden arrest and find it extremely distressing. The guild calls upon Maharashtra to ensure that Goswami is treated fairly and state power is not used against critical reporting by the media,” the top media body said in a statement.
(With inputs from PTI)