Unite to Resist: Journalist Bodies Vow to Fight for Freedom

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Team Clarion

NEW DELHI – Senior journalists have called on the media to unite to resist the multi-pronged attack on journalism in the country setting their differences aside. The call came at a meeting held at the Press Club of India, New Delhi on June 4, in the backdrop of spike in cases against journalists and their illegal arrest.

During the meeting, a panel discussion on “Creeping Infringement of Media Freedom and Assault on Personal Liberty on Journalists” was organised by the Press Club along with the Editors Guild of India, Indian Women’s Press Corps, Press Association, Delhi Union of Working Journalists, Digipub News India Foundation and Working News Cameramen’s Association.

Speakers at the discussion declared their solidarity with the incarcerated journalists, particularly Alt News co-founder Mohammad Zubair. He was booked and arrested by the Delhi Police last week on the allegation that his 2018 tweet hurt religious sentiments. Later, the police alleged that he did not cooperate in the investigation and invoked sections that deal with disappearance of evidence, violating foreign funding norms and taking part in a criminal conspiracy.

Lakhera, president of the Press Club, stated that the contemporary times are worse than the emergency for independent journalism.

Siddharth Varadarajan, the founding editor of The Wire, said the situation for journalists is going to get worse. “There will be an attempt to make new laws and rules” to curb journalism,” he said while explaining why the government was targeting Zubair and Alt News.

He said, “There is a method to this madness.”

Elaborating on his contention, he said,” Alt News has become an obstacle in the government’s attempts to manipulate public opinion.”  

Varadarajan said though it can’t be denied that Zubair’s Muslim identity is also a factor in the action against him, the case captures the essence of what is wrong with the approach of the government towards media.

TN Ninan, the chairperson of Business Standard Private Limited, suggested that a legal support system should be set up for journalists to fight the cases against them. “We should put our differences aside and come together to fight it,” he said and added, “We should organise legal aid to help journalists fight.

He said it’s time the journalists stepped out of their comfort zone and went beyond issuing statements.

The meeting ended with a joint resolution read out before the audience. It said arrests, cases, and raids on media “sends an ominous signal”.

 “The arrest of the Alt News co-founder on what we understand is based on exaggerated and trumped up charges,” it said. “On the other hand, those who actually make hate speeches are moving around freely.”

The resolution also underlined the travel restrictions on Kashmir photojournalist Sana Irshad Matto who was stopped on June 2 at Delhi Airport from boarding the  flight to Paris. 

A panel discussion on “Creeping Infringement of Media Freedom and Assault on Personal Liberty on Journalists” was organised by the Press Club along with the Editors Guild of India, Indian Women’s Press Corps and other media organisations.
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Clarion India - News, Views and Insights about Indian Muslims, Dalits, Minorities, Women and Other Marginalised and Dispossessed Communities.

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