A nation looks to Arnab Goswami for an explanation

Last Updated: Thu, Sep 21, 2017 16:58 hrs
A nation looks to Arnab Goswami for an explanation

(Image source: Facebook/arnabgoswami.fanpage)

Journalist Arnab Goswami is certainly not new to controversy. His relatively new media venture Republic TV has gotten into spats with Congress MP Shashi Tharoor over the yet unsolved death of his wife and with activist and former AAP member SP Udayakumar. Certainly one for taking on the establishment and ‘wag the finger’ attitude, it appears this time Arnab may have some explaining to do.

The latest comes after a video surfaced of Arnab recounting an incident during the 2002 Gujarat riots. In the short clip, he narrates how he along with a few others were stopped by a large group of people in Ahmedabad and they started to break the windows of the car and proceeded to ask the occupants their religion; adding the detail of this happening 50 meters from the Chief Minister’s house. He provides a pretty vivid first person account of him sitting in the front passenger seat and describing the shock on his driver’s face.

As various reports have stated, there were such stories and incidents that took in the chaos of a politically and religiously charged span of time at that place. However, in what some would compare to instances of ‘fake encounters’ in the past, this one has a slightly different connotation. While the incident did in fact occur, Arnab Goswami was allegedly not even covering the riots at the time and hence would not have been present at the incident he narrates; where he places himself in the passenger seat of the car that was mobbed.

Former NDTV colleague and current consulting editor of India Today TV Rajdeep Sardesai rebuked Arnab’s account of the incident stating he wasn’t covering the riots.

The incident was written by Sardesai in his 2014 book where he recounts his time covering the Gujarat riots. Rajdeep in a series of tweets doubled down on his criticism of Arnab’s version of events and even brought upon the topic of Arnab resigning if he is proven wrong.

Rajdeep wasn’t the only one; a couple of others also validated his account stating that Arnab wasn’t on the ground. A current NDTV journalist stated the same.

Perhaps the most detailed account was from the video journalist who was with Rajdeep and their crew and gives a first person perspective of the events that transpired on that day, calling Arnab’s statements absurd.

Regarding the previous two incidents involving Arnab; his legal battle with Shashi Tharoor and his spat with SP Udayakumar, there wasn’t much blowback from the larger media world. This time, it seems its Arnab versus the establishment. Rahul Kanwal, Managing Editor of India Today and Aaj Tak stated he called people to get their views on the story but found that no one would defend Arnab.

Speaking to Outlook, Rahul says it’s imperative for Arnab to apologize after blatantly lying on camera.

While journalism requires objectivity and its roots firmly fixed on the facts on any story being covered, especially on an extremely sensitive subject ripe with politics and religion such as the 2002 Gujarat riots, it seems Arnab may have wanted some of the spotlight or heroic sympathy as he thinks or imagines out loud.

In a column for the right leaning Swarajya, its Editorial Director R Jagannathan questions the ferociousness of the attacks against Arnab while maintaining the necessity for an explanation from him on the incident –

“Over the last few days, one media channel has racked up a video dating back to 2013 (now taken down), where Goswami is seen to be claiming the experience of facing down communal mobs in 2002 Gujarat, experiences that were documented in a book written by his former boss, Rajdeep Sardesai. Unless Goswami had similar experiences of his own elsewhere, he clearly owes us an explanation on how this happened”.

“Even while it is fair to criticise Goswami’s channel, Republic TV, as too aggressive, and even toxic at times, the Lutyens media mafia behaves in the same way, playing prosecutor, judge, jury and executioner to those whose views it disagrees with”.

“The problem for Goswami is that, unlike other journos who may be wrong-footed by such gaffes, he cannot just acknowledge a mistake and move on.

The network Republic TV is certainly known for its ‘in your face’, guerilla style, bordering on tabloid journalism; an example being their reporters hounding Shashi Tharoor after a press conference, but restraint isn’t certainly associated with the network in general and/or their star anchor in particular.

Recently, a journalist with the network resigned after differences in the way they handled the murder of journalist Gauri Lankesh. In a sharply worded Facebook post, Sumana Reddy heavily criticized the way the murder was covered saying the “news organization was batting for a rogue government”.

Twitter meanwhile had a field day with #ArnabDidIt; joking of everything from him fighting in the struggle for freedom to claiming the word Republic was stolen by the Indian constitution from him. Arnab for his part has not yet responded to the deluge of backlash against him which is seemingly uncharacteristic.

It remains to be seen if he will personally go after some of his former colleagues and the journalist establishment or admit his mistake and move on. The underlying question though now arises; what’s the credibility of journalists in general and Arnab in particular if they lie or bend the truth to fit a narrative? Is his reputation intact with this latest incident?

More columns by Varun Sukumar