Media Matters

NDTV's Barkha Dutt slams Arnab Goswami's sinister call for journalists to be put on trial

In the TimesNow world, anyone who disagrees with Arnab should be arrested.

Arnab Goswami has completed his conversion into a tabloid cartoon – the sort who sits behind a camera and declares he's "mad as hell" or the kind of character that inhabits a comic book and demands the arrest of the super hero instead of the criminals. The TimesNow Editor-in-Chief and President has already spent the year demanding the shutdown of a rival channel simply because it got an exclusive he didn't and railing against journalists instead of the lawyers beating them up during the JNU fracas. On Tuesday evening, he effectively called for his competitors to be tried for disagreeing with him.

Hashtagging it doesn't take away from the fact that Goswami later openly calling for the trial of anyone who disagrees with him. Never mind the obvious conflict of interest nor the blatantly illiberal approach to commentary that doesn't fit into his worldview.

"How long will we be silent against these elements?" he thundered. "Do these people compromise our national security or not? Your and my security. And if they do, which we know they do, why do you think we let them get away, why don't we take on these people?"

The subtext for some of this might have come from a statement from Laskar-e-Tayyeba founder Hafiz Saeed to a Pakistani TV channel praising the Indian Congress and NDTV's Barkha Dutt for bringing up narratives other than the Indian government's, which insists that all unrest in Kashmir is created by Pakistan.

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Dutt, whose channel has sought to cover all aspects of the Kashmir conflict, seeking to understand why it is that so many came out in support of slain terrorist Burhan Wani, took to Twitter earlier to criticise Saeed's statements.

Nevertheless, that statement and an op-ed by recently reshuffled Minister of Information and Broadcasting Venkaiah Naidu gave Goswami the pretext to turn his sights on the media. True to form, Goswami's understanding of the Kashmir issue – which has dogged India since Independence – is to blame the matter on his competitors.

On Tuesday night's Newshour, he barely questioned Pakistan, since Goswami knows his fulminations won't actually have any impact there. After activist John Dayal insisted that anyone proven to be working for Pakistan should be arrested and tried, Goswami flipped that into insisting that anyone who disagrees with his line should get the same treatment.

(Warning: the show is nearly unwatchable, but the offensive bits are around 3:15)

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"I agree bring them to trial," he said. "I say not bringing them to trial compromises my country further, and I don't care if some of these people are in the media. Bring them to trial too."

Goswami didn't even spend much time on his usual punching bag, the Congress, for its failure to solve the Kashmir problem, and he certainly didn't question the role of the Army or security forces and their role in creating the conditions that perpetuate unrest in Kashmir. He certainly doesn't question what motivation Saeed might have in making a statement praising some elements of the Indian political and media establishment.

Instead, Goswami spent the entire hour and a half blaming anyone who might think to criticise the official narrative. In the Newshour world, if you don't agree with Goswami you should probably go to jail. The anchor in fact makes the Bharatiya Janata Party, which has tied up with separatist-leaning People's Democratic Party in Jammu and Kashmir, look tame by comparison.

Barkha Dutt, who anchors a competing prime time show on NDTV, put out a Facebook post calling out Goswami's ridiculous stance.

This sort of open antagonism in the Indian media is unusual in a country where organisations don't even like to name competitors, but it has only been encouraged by Goswami's belligerent declarations over the course of the year. Goswami himself likes to blame all of it on professional jealousy, insisting that any and all criticism of him can only come from the mind of someone who simply cannot tolerate the success of TimesNow.

His own fulminations against the rest of the media – such as when he got annoyed that not everybody loved the interview in which he praised Narendra Modi's humour – couldn't possibly be the result of professional competition and jealousy, could they be?

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