Arnab Goswami vs Shashi Tharoor: The fight gets uglier

Last Updated: Mon, Aug 07, 2017 10:37 hrs
Arnab Goswami vs Shashi Tharoor (AFP images)

The latest target for journalist Arnab Goswami’s led Republic TV is Congress MP Shashi Tharoor. The war of words between the two sides reached a fever pitch when journalists from the channel interrupted the MP at a press conference where he was outlining the party’s policy. The journalists continued to shout at Tharoor and surrounded him outside the press conference shouting out “Why are you running away like a coward, Mr. Tharoor?” at him.

Congress leader Divya Spandana posted the video of the incident outside the press conference seemingly looking like paparazzi frenzy.

Mr. Tharoor expressed his views on Twitter – The matter relates to the death of Tharoor’s wife Sunanda Pushkar in 2014 under mysterious circumstances. The incident is still under investigation. The MP from Thiruvananthapuram was questioned by the police as part of the investigation. In July, he told reporters, “No one in this country can be more anxious than me to know the truth and to see a constructive and clear conclusion to this prolonged investigation…My responsibility is to cooperate with the authorities and not with obstreperous, self-interested, publicity-seeking people.”

In late May, Tharoor had filed a civil defamation suit against Arnab Goswami and newly-launched news channel Republic TV in the Delhi High Court alleging defamatory remarks towards him by Arnab Goswami during news segment on the death of Sunanda Pushkar and the following investigation that ensued.

The channel and it’s lead anchor seemed to make the story play out in the court of public opinion; falsely calling Shashi Tharoor a criminal citing no evidence to support the claim in relation to the investigation. The Court observed that the channel could report on the investigation by relaying facts but not take part in name calling.

With the media outlet and its journalist’s intent on getting an answer through thuggish means, the High Court on May 29th said the channel had to respect the right to remain silent by Tharoor.

The High Court has since sought a response from journalist Arnab Goswami and his channel Republic TV on the plea to refrain from misleading reporting on the death and the investigation.

This isn’t the first time the channel and its lead anchor have come under fire. In June, the channel and its lead journalist came under fire from activist and former AAP member S.P. Udaykumar after the channel aired a sting operation alleging Udaykumar accepts foreign funds. He later filed a complaint with the Press Council of India stating that his family was being harassed by Republic TV journalists.

Arnab himself has also courted trouble. In July, Bengaluru Development Minister K.J. George filed a criminal defamation suit against the journalist and Times Now of making false propaganda over the death of IAS officer D.K Ravi in March 2015.

The investigation itself being controversial has faced hurdles along the way with conspiracy theories running about; the Delhi High Court questioned the police on the delay in probing the reasons behind the death. The court also had to deal with a petition from Subramanian Swamy where he asked for a court-monitored CBI-led special investigation (SIT) probe into Pushkar’s death. He also expressed support to Republic TV for its reporting on the story.

The delay seemed to be regarding not being able to come to a consensus on the findings of the Central Forensic Science Laboratory (CFSL) and the Forensic Science Laboratory (FSL). Given the recent High Court order to Republic TV, it did not seem to deter those at the media outlet. Its Associate Editor for Foreign/Strategic Affairs tweeted in defiance – It seems the channel is an all out war against the Congress in general and Tharoor in particular with regards to this issue. The issue still being in the court has shined a spotlight on the channel and its journalists as to what constitutes investigative reporting and blurring the lines between journalism and propaganda. The media outlet has certainly adopted a ‘guerilla’ style of reporting; getting in the face of those from whom they seek answers.

More columns by Varun Sukumar

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