Delhi Union of Journalists Decries 'Increasing Policing' of Media

The journalists' body called for the setting up of a 'Media Council of India', on a priority basis, to replace the "toothless" Press Council.

New Delhi: The Delhi Union of Journalists (DUJ) has expressed “grave concern” against the “increasing policing” of journalists and journalism in the country, and also against the “increasing tendency of flashing hate speech” against communities, especially of minorities.

In a joint statement issued on Sunday, January 15, DUJ president, S.K.Pande, and its general secretary, Sujata Madhok, called upon the authorities concerned to set up on a priority basis a Media Council of India, replacing the “toothless” Press Council and the News Broadcasting and Digital Standards Authority (NBDSA) which more than often is a “prisoner of indecision”.

Citing the latest report of Human Rights Watch, which was released recently, the DUJ said the report reflected the “increasing policing of journalists and journalism in India today”. The HRW report spoke of several arrested and jailed journalists with concern, including Mohammed Zubair, Rupesh Kumar Singh, Siddique Kappan, among others, the DUJ added.

Reflecting on the HRW report, DUJ said the situation in Kashmir is the worst with the arrests of Fahad Shah and Sajad Gul. “The Human Rights Watch Report says ’35 journalists in Kashmir have faced police interrogation, raids, threats, physical assault, restrictions on freedom of movement, or fabricated criminal cases for their reporting’, since August 2019,” the DUJ added.

Referring to the HRW report, the DUJ said, “Most damningly, the Report says the government has ‘intensified and broadened their crackdown on activist groups and the media’. The Report refers to the use of Pegasus spyware to target media persons besides other assaults on the media.”

The DUJ also expressed concern over the hostile takeover of the news channel NDTV and the consequent spate of resignations from the channel, starting with the independent anchor Ravish Kumar, followed by group president Suparna Singh, chief strategy officer Arijit Chatterjee and chief technology and product officer Kawaljit Singh Bedi. “This spate of resignations could multiply as the Adani group takes full control of the NDTV group,” the DUJ added

On the issue of NDTV, it further said it was “one of the last channels that reported somewhat independently, instead of merely mouthing government and corporate propaganda and amplifying divisive, communal hate speech”.

The DUJ welcomed the Supreme Court’s recent observations on the role of TV channels in causing rifts in society and its directives to state governments and police to take action against those who promote hate speech.

The Supreme Court is hearing several petitions against hate speech including the “UPSC Jihad” campaign by Sudarshan News TV, the Corona Jihad campaign in the media and the Dharam Sansad meetings where anti-Muslim statements were openly made, the DUJ said.