Home Page

  Communalism Combat

  India Rights & Wrongs







  Action Alerts




  Resources for



  About us


  Contact Us


  Sabrang Team













June 10, 2008

Intimidation Of The Media

Who Gains?

The Gujarat Police has slapped sedition charges on The Times of India, Ahmedabad, for suggesting that Ahmedabad’s new Commissioner of Police, Mr O P Mathur , had underworld links. If the Commissioner was offended, he was within his rights to have initiated criminal and civil proceedings of defamation against the publication and its employees. But sedition?           

In Thane, hoodlums claiming to represent an outfit known as Shiv Sangram Sanghatana,

attacked the house of Kumar Ketkar, editor of the Marathi daily “Loksatta”, in broad

daylight and subjected him to verbal abuse and terror before the police arrived a full 40

minutes later. Ketkar’s offence? In a satirical vein, he had questioned the need for the

Maharashtra government to spend Rs 300 crores on erecting a statue of Shivaji in the

Arabian Sea when Maharashtra’s children are malnourished, have no access to schools

and our farmers are committing suicide. 

If an arm of the state can press so serious a charge as sedition on one of India’s biggest media groups with such impunity, what could be in store for smaller publications and individual journalists? Is this not a direct attack on the freedom of expression and opinion? Are the cops above criticism? Can criticism of an individual police officer amount to sedition? Is government policy not subject to democratic debate and discussion?          

As for the Ketkar case, time and again, mob rule has prevented the slightest whiff of dissent when the subject matter is even vaguely related to Shivaji. And more often than not, these mobs have had overt or covert political support: this is a handy device for silencing opposition to pet causes. If an editor of Kumar Ketkar’s standing of a mainstream publication can be intimidated in such a brazen fashion, what hope for other dissenting journalists?       

In fact, this growing lack of tolerance to any criticism from the media also extends to the judiciary. In September 2007, three journalists and the publisher of “Midday”, a New Delhi eveninger, were convicted by the High Court for contempt of court for arguing that the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court may have had an undeclared conflict of interest while deciding some cases involving the shutting down of small shops and commercial establishments. Another senior activist and journalist was pulled up for even suggesting that a discriminatory system of justice is prevalent in our courts when granting bail. Remember, the judges have also ruled that they are not subject to scrutiny under the Right to Information Act nor are their individual assets a matter for public scrutiny.          

A clear trend is now emerging. On the one hand, various arms of the state are cracking down on the media whenever unpalatable facts are uncovered. On the other, bands of ruffians are unleashed on the media, generally with the patronage of politicians and sections of the administration, to silence even the mildest criticism.  No political party appears above breaking the rule of law ( OR, This dangerous trend appears backed by every political party across the spectrum). Such intimidatory tactics also have a demonstration effect and are intended to create a climate of fear. No disquieting questions are to be raised regarding the economic, political and social fallout of India’s tryst with globalization and financialisation.      

Are mediapersons going to be cowed down by such blatantly intimidatory ploys? Are we going to be content to play the role of passive spectators? To ask inconvenient questions is the raison d’etre of journalism. Are we a mature democracy or are we fast becoming a backdoor banana republic?       

We invite all freedom-loving citizens and groups to attend a meeting on “Who benefits from intimidation of the Media?” at Mumbai Marathi Patrakar Sangh, Opposite BMC Headquarters, CST on s12th June 2008 from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Among the speakers

(proposed ) are Kumar Ketkar, editor, Loksatta, Aspi Chinoy, Supreme Court lawyer, P.Sainath, Editor ( rural affairs) The Hindu, Teesta Setalvad, Citizens for Justice and Peace, Neelkanth Paratkar, President, Brihanmumbai Union of Journalists. 

Issued by: Brihanmumbai Union of Journalists, Citizens for Justice and Peace, Communalism Combat