In a massive development, the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has called on the Mumbai police to stop intimidating journalists at Republic Media Network and drop all criminal investigations into the network.
The international organisation which defends the rights of journalists worldwide issued a statement over the ongoing witch-hunt against Republic Media Network led by the Param Bir Singh-led Mumbai Police which began with a wrongful implication in a false TRP case and has grown in other directions since then. CPJ’s Senior Asia Researcher Aliya Iftikhar said that the growing number of legal investigations into journalists at Republic TV is concerning. She said the police should drop the charges and do its job.
"The Committee to Protect Journalists calls on the Mumbai police to stop trying to intimidate journalists at Republic TV and drop all criminal investigations into the news channel. On October 23, Mumbai police opened an investigation into five members of the privately-held news channel’s editorial team in relation to a critical report on Police Chief Param Bir Singh, according to various news reports," the CPJ report reads.
“The growing number of legal investigations into journalists at Republic TV is concerning. Police should drop these charges; they should do their job, and let the journalists do theirs,” writes Aliya Iftikhar.
The CPJ acknowledged Mumbai Police's brazen attempt to level strike on press freedom, which was exposed through the multiple sessions of unnecessary interrogation. The CPJ has also sent an email to the Mumbai police, seeking its reaction on the matter but it the force has not responded as yet.
After over 150 hours of questioning of the members of Republic Media Network's management and editorial staff, the Mumbai Police summoned Republic's Output Editor Sagarika Mitra, who was questioned for 2 hours on Tuesday. Shortly after that, Senior Associate Editor Shivani Gupta was called in for questioning by the Mumbai police.
The latest summons came after Republic’s Senior Associate Editor Shawan Sen and Executive Editor Niranjan Narayanaswamy's questioning on Saturday. The duo were questioned again on the story wherein Republic had shared that Mumbai Police officers were unhappy with its commissioner amid the witch-hunt against Republic. The journalists maintained that they won’t reveal their sources.
On Friday, the Param Bir Singh-led Mumbai Police filed an FIR against the entire editorial team of the network, deploying a 1922 British Raj-era law that had last been used in the Emergency-era.
"I am sharing with a sense of disbelief that Param Bir has intensified attack on my journalists. He has started a series of summons. Journalists from our Delhi, Noida and Mumbai operations have been summoned. They are all being given under 24 hours notice. Even when some are recovering from COVID, the Mumbai police says they have to travel and be before their police stations. Apparently, he has asked his cops to go "all-out". During the interrogations, we are being told to tone down or else Param Bir will file more fake cases against us. In all, we have endured 150 hours of semi custodial interrogation. They say they want to 'break us'. As it is now public knowledge one of the interrogators is a Shiv Sena leader who has pending cases for charges like extortion. All Republic employees and journalists are resolutely fighting this. For us, this is a battle we are certain to win. We are exercising legal remedies. The courts will hear the people. I am shocked that the Uddhav government has endorsed the use of the 1922 British era law against my network. I say once again, the time has come for a mass movement against this injustice. I am a self-made media entrepreneur. I will fight my battle from Mumbai. The people of Mumbai and the people of India are with me. By way of this message, I am calling upon the people of India to fight this madness that the rogue cop and his insecure political masters have unleashed. Please share this message. In whichever way you can. We have to win this." Arnab proceeded to walk in solidarity with Republic's Output Editor Sagarika Mitra to the NM Joshi Marg police station where she was summoned.