NewsClick arrests: journalists and activists hold protest against attack on press freedom

October 08, 2023 01:08 am | Updated October 12, 2023 11:57 am IST - CHENNAI

Members of The Network of Women in Media, India, and journalists belonging to different media organisations staging a protest in Chennai on Saturday. 

Members of The Network of Women in Media, India, and journalists belonging to different media organisations staging a protest in Chennai on Saturday.  | Photo Credit: B. Jothi Ramalingam

Journalists, lawyers and activists gathered at the Press Club here at the call of The Network of Women in Media, India, on Saturday to protest against the raids and arrests of journalists of news portal Newsclick and condemned the targeted attack on press freedom.

They raised slogans against the arrest and harassment of journalists and held placards that read ‘Don’t stomp on press freedom’; ‘Give up Harassment of journalists’; and ‘Defend press freedom.’

| Video Credit: Johan Sathyadas

Though reluctant to equate the current situation to the Emergency, Sashi Kumar, Chairman of Media Development Foundation and Asian College of Journalism, said similarities between both these periods were becoming clear.

He said the attack on the media was more like an ‘undeclared Emergency’.

He further said that the government that came to power as champions of free speech, citing Emergency as the biggest disaster, now not only refuses to recognise the press but also hunts it down with vengeance. Citizens and journalists must be prepared to fight, as otherwise, it would be a sham of democracy and the Constitution, he added. Noting that the government had scant regard for mob lynching against journalists, both online and offline, he said the people and media houses must firmly oppose the government’s media policy. Freedom of press is indivisible and this was not a problem concerning a section of the media alone, Mr. Sashi said.

A.S. Panneerselvan, Fellow at the Centre for Study in Public Sphere, Roja Muthiah Research Library, noted that there was a need to create a network for legal defence to fight cases on behalf of journalists and protect their fundamental rights. It is not enough for the court to just make open court observations. It should also provide justice to journalists.

Condemning the attack on media fraternity, Suresh Nambath, Editor, The Hindu, said it was a brazen attempt to stifle any form of dissent against the government, invoking draconian laws like the UAPA (Unlawful Activities (Prevention Act), 1967).

Writer and academician Kalpana Karunakaran recalled how NewsClick founder Prabir Purkayastha, who had already faced arrest during Emergency, was facing a similar situation now. Civil society must take an oath not to forget such attacks on democracy.

Elaborating on the UAPA and its inconsistencies, Vaishna Roy, Editor, Frontline, raised questions on the labelling of journalism as an act of terrorism by the Centre. No evidence was brought out to justify the claims of NewsClick receiving any Chinese funding, she said. Carnatic vocalist and activist T.M. Krishna said such attacks and the curtailing of press freedom conveyed a dangerous message that voices raised against the government would be silenced. He said this could instigate fear among citizens.

Editor-in-Chief of Sun News M. Gunasekaran said crippling of free media would have a chilling effect on other institutions.

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