Media fraternity calls for unity in wake of ‘threat’ to press freedom


New Delhi, January 11: Senior journalists and representatives of media associations today held a meeting under the aegis of the Delhi Union of Journalists and expressed solidarity with The Tribune and its correspondent over the Aadhaar data breach expose.

Condemning the government for registration of a criminal case, the journalists wore black badges to protest the UIDAI’s action against the newspaper and its correspondent, Rachna Khaira.
Several media organisations, including All India Newspaper Employees Federation, extended support to The Tribune and criticised the government. The speakers at the meeting stressed on unity among the media fraternity in the wake of the government’s alleged systematic onslaught on the freedom of the press. The speeches of the journalists were prefaced with a message by Harish Khare, Editor-in-Chief,Tribune Group of Newspapers, which was read by Associate Editor KV Prasad.

Khare said rather than feeling outraged, he was inclined to be thankful to the government, its empowered agency UIDAI and the police for slapping a criminal case against the daily and the correspondent.
“We at The Tribune did nothing more than what any other set of editors in a newspaper would have done. We do not think of ourselves as manning the barricades. We do not subscribe to permanent insurrection. We are not chasing any revolution.

“We believe in the Constitution and its values; we assiduously seek to provide space to the voices of dissent. And yet, we are sought to be hauled up for doing a spot of honest, legitimate investigative reporting; we are sought to be intimidated for practising a bit of old-fashioned journalism.
“And, so, if the arrogant rulers of the day can think of wanting to arrest the reporter and The Tribune editor, which journalist in India can feel safe and confident in pursuing an honest story?

“We need to be thankful to the authorities for proving once again that the state does not have any monopoly over competence; that the state depends upon functionaries who are not, and cannot be, gods; that these functionaries are often inept, inadequate and ill-equipped to be the repositories of our welfare,” said Khare.
Siddharth Varadarajan, The Wire Editor-in-Chief, said what happened with The Tribune should be seen in the wider context of developments in the past about three years, marked by efforts to “suppress the citizens’ right to know and think, and the media’s freedom”.
National Alliance of Journalists’ W Chandrakanth, Masoom Moradbadi and Pranjoy Guha Thakurta and noted jurist Rajeev Dhawan spoke in a similar vein.

Indian Newspaper Society (INS) president Akila Urankar, on behalf of INS members, expressed “serious concern” over attempts to browbeat the reporter. “This report was eminently in public interest. This is a brazen attack on the freedom of the press and displays lack of respect for ethical media practices,” said Urankar.

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