Citizen Arnab Goswami has been arrested. Not because he broke the cardinal rule of journalism — never make yourself the story — but because of an abetment to suicide case.
The broken loudspeaker of the television industry, who has been stuck in a ‘nation wants to know’ loop, perhaps didn’t think it would come to this. And I purposely say television and not journalism. Journalism is based on facts, not whims. And Republic TV chief Arnab Goswami is a whimsical man. He was once giddy because he had bagged an interview with Congress’ Sonia Gandhi. Today, he can’t stop referring to her as “Italy waali Sonia”.
Arnab is an entertainer, if his television theatrics are looked at optimistically. He is a rabble-rouser, if he’s seen realistically. In more recent times, he’s been entertaining us with sensational stories of big Bollywood celebrities taking drugs, actresses siphoning money off their star boyfriends and Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray’s probable link to it. All these have made Arnab Goswami’s arrest look comically tragic.
Think about it. Here’s a man who ran khap panchayat-like studio shows where he, the mukhiya (chief), was the unquestionable judge, jury and executioner. And lately, also the subject of most of Republic TV’s content. He was the macho news anchor taking on the country’s (opposition) leaders, but now he was also the victim.
On 4 November, when he was being arrested from his home in Mumbai, it looked like he couldn’t believe it himself. He wasn’t being arrested for his journalism, but a totally different case —his alleged role in the suicide of architect Anvay Naik in 2018.
The fight — for TRPs
Many ministers in the Narendra Modi government, including Amit Shah, condemned Arnab Goswami’s arrest, and said it reminded them of ‘the Emergency’. BJP leaders took out protests in several cities. As of Sunday, however, Arnab was still in custody.
But Arnab Goswami didn’t go down without a fight — for TRPs. He left his house shouting ‘assault assault’, and insisted he was the hero of this drama, who was being hunted by Uddhav Thackeray (whose government the news anchor could singlehandedly topple).
Look at any of Republic TV’s social media handles or coverage now — Arnab Goswami is everywhere. Not as the primetime debate host, but as the news. He has made himself the story.
Citizen Arnab is now asking for all the rights that he didn’t advocate for others. And now he’s surprisingly doing everything that the people he hated did to ask for their rights.
The assault on him is suddenly so wrong. But when activist Sadaf Jafar was allegedly assaulted by the police or when the police was accused of assaulting 15 women and 30 men during the February Citizenship (Amendment) Act clash in Delhi, Arnab Goswami obviously wasn’t as vociferous.
In fact, since his arrest, Republic TV staffers claiming to represent the whole of India — #IndiaWithArnab — are protesting for his rights. These are the same people who day in and day out called Shaheen Bagh ‘pro-Pak’ for protesting against the government of India. If Arnab is protesting against the Maharashtra government, then by his logic, he and his channels are anti-Maharashtra and anti-Marathas.
Call it karma, but Arnab wanted to take a ‘snapshot’ of the expression of people who spoke against the witch-hunt of Rhea Chakraborty when she was arrested. Today, snapshots of Arnab’s arrest are plastered all over social media. The cardinal rule of not running media trials was shredded to pieces by Arnab Goswami — #ArrestRhea was one such media trial. And he’s run many others.
But the arrest of Arnab Goswami has highlighted another big problem.
Nation wants to know
Arnab Goswami, much like the BJP, clearly didn’t invest in a tier two for his organisation. Now, the nation wants to know if there is a Republic TV beyond Arnab Goswami.
Getting arrested has ensured that his constant attempt to make himself the ‘star anchor’ of both his English and Hindi channels has blown up in his face. His channel is now airing desperate anchors trying too hard to sound like Arnab and asking for justice. That’s because he apparently mostly hires young journalists who can’t question his durbar. Wonder why he didn’t call it Arnab TV.
Not to miss, Republic TV recently claimed ‘From Newsrooms Across India, Journalists Stand In Solidarity With Arnab Goswami’. Then the camera zoomed into five newsrooms, of which two were Republic’s own channels.
Arnab Goswami’s megalomaniac ways have got the better of him. And his channel is not entertaining anyone anymore since he’s not on it. It’s not even entertaining his ardent fans, that’s if they exist at all considering the TRP scam in which Republic TV’s name reportedly came up in the statements of some of the accused.
Arnab Goswami’s peculiar case of politically motivated news anchoring has brought out a very important fact. Media will be nothing but a pawn if it tries to be an extended arm of a political party. And pawns are usually the first ones to be sacrificed to the enemy for a win. The BJP is now using Arnab to showcase the Maha Vikas Aghadi and Shiv Sena to be nothing more than Indira Gandhi-like authoritarian political parties. Arnab in jail serves its purpose. Arnab has indeed made a fantastic story out of himself and become peak national news. You know what happens after a peak?
The author is a political observer and writer. Views are personal.
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