Editors Guild urges Mumbai Police not to victimise journalists, tells Republic TV to behave responsibly
“The use of arbitrary state power is not and has never been in the interests of working journalists,” the guild said in the statement
The Editors Guild of India on Monday in a statement on the "unprecedented stand-off" between the Mumbai Police and Republic TV, called on the police to stop victimising the channel's journalists and also urged the broadcaster to behave responsibly.
The guild said it was pained to see the "hundreds of FIRs" against the journalists of Republic TV, which is being probed in connection to a TRP scam and for spreading disaffection again the Mumbai Police.
The Editors Guild of India has issued a statement on FIRs that have been filed against journalists of Republic TV pic.twitter.com/tA4RFKDaBX
— Editors Guild of India (@IndEditorsGuild) October 26, 2020
The police last week registered an FIR against four journalists over a report run by the channel about a 'revolt' against Police Commissioner Param Bir Singh by senior officers.
The FIR named anchor and deputy news editor Shivani Gupta, anchor and senior associate editor Sagarika Mitra, deputy editor Shawan Sen and executive editor Niranjan Narayanswami.
The statement said the guild did not wish to influence the probe which has the potential to bring about transparency in the "manipulation of popularity" but cautioned against the victimisation of journalists.
“The use of arbitrary State power is not and has never been in the interests of working journalists,” the statement read.
"The stand-off between the Mumbai Police and the TV channel is unprecedented and threatens the tenous but important to maintain balance between media freedom and the imperative for it to reside within the rule of law. Right to free speech does not mean a license to promote hate speech," the guild said in its statement.
The guild also took note of the channel's reportage of the Sushant Singh Rajput death case which it said raises issues about media credibility and responsible reporting. The statement referred to the questions asked about the Bombay High Court to the channel about what qualifies as investigative journalism and also noted that the News Broadcasters Association had expressed concerns about the channel's conduct.
The Bombay HC, while hearing petitions filed over media trial in the Sushant Singh Rajput death case, had on 21 October sought to know from the broadcaster's lawyer whether seeking public opinion on who should in arrested was investigative journalism. The court had also noted that the powers of investigation were vested with the police under the CrPC.
The guild said the channel must behave responsibly and “not compromise the safety of its journalists as well as hurt the collective credibility of media”. It added that the police must ensure that the investigation does not become a tool to suppress media rights.
Mumbai Police Commissioner had on 8 October said that a fake TRP racket, where three television channels, including Republic TV had been found to be manipulating TRPs, had been busted. The owner of two Marathi channels, Fakt Marathi and Box Cinema, had been arrested, Singh said in a press conference.
The alleged fake TRP scam came to light when rating agency Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC) filed a complaint through Hansa Research Group, alleging that certain television channels were rigging TRP numbers.
Subsequently, the police also called several officials associated with the channel for questioning. Republic TV has denied the allegations and as per reports, its editor in chief Arnab Goswami had decided to sue Singh for Rs 200 crores in damages.
Republic TV had also approached the Supreme Court seeking that FIRs against it be quashed but the court directed it to approach the Bombay High Court. The probe into the TRP scam was handed over to the CBI based on a FIR registered in Uttar Pradesh.
The NBA to had expressed concerns that the "clash between Republic TV and Mumbai police is posing a threat to the credibility and respect of two great institutions, the media and the police".
With inputs from PTI
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