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Suprateek Chatterjee fired for wishing Modi's death on Twitter: Media espousing violence is a dangerous trend

Having been the editor of seven newspapers in India and abroad these past 46 years I would gladly submit that I would have had no hesitation in banning columnist Suprateek Chatterjee for his tweets indicating his delight in case someone killed Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Not just that but deliberately encouraging others to feel likewise and asking terrorist to pick up the gauntlet.

Just as much as he feels he has the right to say his piece so does The Quint and why on earth should it associate itself and its staff with an individual who calls for blood spill with ill-concealed glee. This is not free speech it is incitement. And by blocking him and taking down his columns The Quint has protected its interests. For those supporting him as readers or fellow journalists what redeeming feature can they find in such obnoxious content, not any of it predicated to reason only a diatribe that would be unacceptable in any social context?

By that measure, if he had written that he hopes Modi loses the elections in 2019 and his narration rises above the level of hectoring and pursues a logical argument I would allow it to be on the front page. That is freedom of expression. Not some silly undergrad self-indulgence inviting death upon Modi.

A piece published on Firstpost earlier underscores the chunk of hypocrisy that fuels liberals and their thought processes as well as the absurdity of trying to link their viciousness with banter or shrilly categorising it as their right in a democratic setup.

In itself, the Chatterjee issue isn’t such a big deal. But it becomes one when media per se does nothing about this infringement on its rules of engagement and backs off censuring the man.

 Suprateek Chatterjee fired for wishing Modis death on Twitter: Media espousing violence is a dangerous trend

File image of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. AFP

The aforesaid article almost makes further comment redundant but the issue needs to be kept on the front burner and it does become a case of 'physician, heal thyself'. We, the media, have a responsibility to ourselves and our standards. We spare no one when it comes to what they say in those 140 characters or elsewhere and howl for blood if we choose to find something offensive. If you take the ill-mannered and rude tweets sent out by Congress party leader Manish Tewari on the same subject and compare them to Chatterjee's chant they are vanilla in comparison. Yet, the media went on the town and milked it for every drop they could squeeze from it. Why then should the sauce change for ourselves? We should be out there backing The Quint rather than censuring it and displaying our distaste for this gross liberty taken by one of our tribe. Not to step up to the plate would be would a dereliction of our duty.

Silence in the ranks is tantamount to agreement. If we do not police ourselves and acknowledge when the line of correctness and propriety is rent asunder we lose the moral right to judge others and their various acts of omission and commission.

In his latest book The Absence of Guilt in which legal author Mark Gimenez argues about the right to say what you like and the protection afforded by the first, fifth and sixth amendments to the US Constitution. He writes of an American Imam refused bail on the grounds that he might be a threat to a bombing mission of the Dallas Cowboy’s stadium despite there not being a shred of evidence to support the suspicion. A very telling sentence in the book echoes what is happening in our country. "Just because I say I wish you were dead, it does not make me guilty of conspiring to murder you."

True. But what if that exhortation is picked up and someone runs with it. Are you an accessory before the fact?

We, in India, have no such protections but the liberals have always wanted the spirit of ‘freedom of expression’ to be seen as fluid and responsive to the occasion.

"The conservatives argued for original intent. Now, it has changed. Liberals argue for original intent so they can hide behind the laws and scream persecution while the conservatives look for a more amorphous interpretation," says Giminez

What these people are doing is generating hatred and divisiveness under the guise of concern for the greater good.

When media espouses violence and gets an audience it is the beginning of the end for a land of laws.

Exactly how Hitler got started.

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Updated Date: Sep 23, 2017 09:32:08 IST