New Delhi: In a resolution passed on October 15, the Delhi Union of Journalists and the National Alliance of Journalists have condemned the criminal defamation case filed by Jay Shah against The Wire. The BJP president’s son filed the case after The Wire published an investigative report detailing the sudden increase in turnover of a company owned by Jay Shah after the Narendra Modi government came to power. This case, the journalists’ groups said, is part of a larger pattern of defamation cases being filed to “target journalists and news agencies” and “terrorise or browbeat them”.
The full text of their resolution is reproduced below.
There is something particularly undemocratic about the use of defamation suits and prosecutions when they seek to protect those in power. When used against the media they are even more distasteful, for the aim then is not only to intimidate but also to prevent the people from access to information.
When those close to powerful personages are seen receiving unusual advantages, then the people have a right to know whether the advantages are legitimate or wrought by influence. The transparency that law enforces on corporates is not meant to be stymied by defamation actions,when information in the public record is reproduced or relied upon in the media.
The government has come out in defence of Jay Shah. And Jay Shah himself has called The Wire report and story “The Golden Touch of Amit Shah” false.
The DUJ demands to know which statement in the report or story is false, for till date there is no clarification on where the falsehood, if any lies. Conversely, if there is no factual error in the story, it is even more important to know why Jay Shah finds it derogatory— for then, clearly, it is not the media that has contributed to the derogation of his reputation but the factual situation to which he alone has contributed.
The DUJ is asking for a clear statement from the Union government on both the aforesaid points. The Union government has stepped in to assert the legitimacy of Jay Shah’s business, and therefore it is for the government to tell the people what part of the story is false and then demonstrate why it is false.
If information on the affairs of close relatives of powerful politicians is to be withheld by the media, the only result will be the secrecy of power that will spawn all manner of corruption. If state power is used to maintain defamation suits and prosecutions in order to shroud the affairs of public persons and their close relatives, instead of coming out with the truth in the public domain, it is not only an assault on the press but a direct assault of constitutional democracy itself.