Shillong Times editor quits premier body of editors complaining ‘celebrity bias’, a reference to concern shown for Arnab Goswami, but indifference to its own members
NEW DELHI – Even after three days, the Editors Guild of India has given no reaction to the resignation of Shillong Times editor Patricia Mukhim from its membership. She resigned on Monday protesting lack of support from the Guild while she was facing a court battle.
Instead, the premier body of editors chose to issue a letter to the Chief Minister of Assam drawing his attention to “the growing incidence of violence against journalists.”
On November 10, the Meghalaya High Court refused to quash a police complaint against her for her July Facebook post which allegedly incited communal tension between the tribal and the non-tribal communities in the state. Mukhim criticised the Guild for “maintaining complete silence” over her case, while it issued statements condemning the arrest of a non-member, Arnab Goswami, whose arrest was not even on grounds of journalistic pursuits.
The Guild had found Goswami’s arrest “extremely distressing” and even called upon the Maharashtra Chief Minister to ensure that Goswami, who has been granted interim bail by the Supreme Court since then, was treated fairly and state power was not used against critical reporting by the media.
“I see this as a classic case of the Guild playing to the gallery to defend celebrity editors/anchors whose voices matter while choosing to deliberately ignore a plea from one of its members. Clearly, this is also a case of prejudice and a deliberate attempt to push those in the margins even further away so that they disappear completely from the national discourse (since the Guild is a national association of editors) and leave them to deal with the matter in their personal capacity,” Mukhim reportedly said in the resignation letter.
She has chosen not to publish her letter but various publications have published its contents.
“I had shared this High Court order with the Guild hoping that it would at least give out a statement condemning the HC order but there was and has been complete silence from the executive. Ironically, the Guild responded with alacrity and issued a statement condemning Arnab Goswami’s arrest (a non-member), not on grounds of journalistic pursuits but on an abetment to suicide case,” Mukhim’s resignation letter said.
“It is no longer tenable for me to be part of this hallowed group of editors whose loyalties are to those that occupy a certain elite space. In fact, I feel completely out of place; almost an outlier in the Guild. Kindly therefore accept my resignation…,” Mukhim’s letter said.
Mukhim said she sent her resignation letter as a member to Guild president Seema Mustafa on Monday. On Thursday, Clarion India tried to contact Mustafa but did not succeed.
The Telegraph quoted sources as saying that efforts were on to persuade Mukhim to stay on. Two executive committee members of the Guild are also reported to have called her on Monday and requested her to reconsider her decision but she was firm on her decision.
Meanwhile, the Guild on Thursday posted on its Twitter account a statement saying that it has written a letter to the Chief Minister of Assam “on the growing incidence of violence against journalists and urging him to take necessary steps to ensure their safety. The letter also has the list of 32 journalists killed in the state since 1991.
The Editors Guild of India has written a letter to the Chief Minister of Assam, on the growing incidence of violence against journalists and urging him to take necessary steps to ensure their safety. The letter also has the list of 32 journalists killed in the state since 1991. pic.twitter.com/GubYEDzbk9
— Editors Guild of India (@IndEditorsGuild) November 19, 2020
To this, Mukhim responded sarcastically: “So the conscience of the Editors’ Guild of India is now awakened about a periphery called Assam. A delayed letter written to Assam CM about ongoing incidence of violence against journalists and urging him to take steps to ensure their safety. Wow so noble.”
So the conscience of the Editors’ Guild of India is now awakened about a periphery called Assam..A delayed letter written to Assam CM about ongoing incidence of violence against journalists and urging him to take steps to ensure their safety. Wow so noble
— patricia mukhim (@meipat) November 19, 2020