Hafta 273: Kashmiri journalists, Arnab Goswami on Palghar, Ramachandra Guha, and more

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In this week’s episode of NL Hafta, Newslaundry’s Abhinandan Sekhri, Raman Kripal, Manisha Pande, Mehraj D Lone, and Anand Vardhan are joined by Anuradha Bhasin, executive editor of Kashmir Times.Abhinandan asks Anuradha how reporting is being carried out in the valley at the moment. Anuradha says they’re “unable to bring out print editions”, and printed copies aren’t being distributed by hawkers. Barring a few newspapers, she adds, the government has “stopped all ads”.Discussing the few journalists bringing out stories, Anuradha says, “The pandemic is being used as a cover to target them and harass them.” Mehraj agrees, saying: “Journalism has been declared a crime in Kashmir.” He adds that this has been the case for a while, and legal coercion is used to ensure that “self-censorship becomes pervasive”. Manisha comments on how journalists are being “called and questioned” over their stories. Raman brings up the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, which empowers those in power to arrest journalists. Anuradha calls the UAPA a “stringent and disproportionate law” since the onus to prove one’s innocence lies on the person booked under the act. Abhinandan brings up how historian Ramachandra Guha moved his column from Hindustan Times. He adds that Guha had accused HT of censoring his column back in 2007-08, but it got no attention since social media was not big at the time. Anand says there are two ways of looking at it. The first is “a matter between a private company and a man who writes for it”, and the second is about what is acceptable and what isn’t in the press. In the first case, he says, “We don’t know what the company has to say about it.” Considering Guha has options for where he could publish his column, Anand doesn’t think Guha represents the “larger scheme of things” for columnists as a professional group.Mehraj points out that the conversation isn’t really about Guha, but about how “a very powerful media organisation decided to censor a piece they didn’t like”. Manisha adds that this shouldn’t be confused with editorial inputs.Moving on to Arnab Goswami’s show on the Palghar lynching, Raman says, “Arnab manufactured the news and made it communal.” Discussing the alleged attack on Goswami, Abhinandan says Goswami’s statement on it “made it seem like there was an attack on his life”. He adds: “And then he says, ‘Now you give me sympathy’. You are taking away what he had done to journalism the night before.”Manisha says Goswami’s introduction of a communal angle into the lynching, when rumours are actually to blame, is “criminally irresponsible, it’s not journalistic, it makes no sense.”The panel also discusses All India Radio’s casual employees losing their livelihood, and the backlash to Tejasvi Surya’s tweets.

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