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Wednesday, November 29, 2023

Odisha TV journalist arrested for exposing Naveen Patnaik led BJD government

Regional news channel OTV’s senior journalist Ramesh Rath was on Thursday detained by the police in Keonjhar district of Odisha in what the channel alleged was harassment or targeting by the state government for exposing the BJD government.

Sadar police in-charge Narayan Khandai maintained that the journalist had not been arrested but was only taken in for questioning as one of the accused serving jail terms in a case of a obscene video circulated online had supposedly named Rath and revealed that the said journalist had video material related to the case.

However, the channel maintained that the timing was suspect as it came just a day after an expose was telecast by OTV regarding Naveen Patnaik’s aerial survey of flood-hit areas in August this year based on shreds of evidence gathered by the channel through RTI (Right to Information).

As per the channel’s statement, it has come to light that the premises of the channel’s office was searched without a search warrant by a police team who had reached there with Rath.

Rath alleged that it could hardly be a coincidence that he was detained for a year-old case right after certain incriminating reports were aired. He said that he’ll cooperate with the investigation and has been asked to visit the Keonjhar police station on 21st October.

It must be mentioned here that ex-BJD and current BJP national vice-president Baijayant Panda’s family is the majority stakeholder in OTV. Panda had taken to Twitter to express his anguish where he stated that serious allegations were made against CM Patnaik of faking an aerial survey in August and the reporter who broke the story has been arrested.

While the Editor’s Guild led by Shekar Gupta had maintained a convenient silence, like they always do when it is not someone from the Lutyens cabal, The Print run by Gupta has not failed to highlight the “BJP Connection” in its report.

A supposedly neutral body like the Editor’s Guild must stand up for every journalist and not only in support of those who belong to the cabal. Republic TV Chief Editor Arnab Goswami had pointed out how the Editor’s Guild of India (EGI) actually defended fake news publications like The Wire instead of acting to curb fake news.

He stated that one of the main reasons for his resignation from the body was the political bias of certain publications which are connected with the EGI in one way or the other and the organization shielding these publications. He also said that the EGI is not made up of editors but mostly ex-editors or people who were never editors.

Journalistic freedom and democracy are more often than not are only under threat when one of the cabal members are attacked. They never fail to cry “fascism” at the drop of a hat when their political paymasters are not involved. However, they should know that picking up a journalist from the middle of the road without rhyme or reason is what is real fascism.

The Odisha government displayed its high-handedness when it arrested journalist Abhijit Iyer Mitra for his objectionable comments on Konark Temple. No doubt his comments were derogatory and we are not condoning his deplorable comments but the point we wish to bring forth is that those journalists who cry hoarse over fascism in the case of rape-accused Tarun Tejpal never bother to condemn when a Mitra or a Rath is being hassled in a high-handed manner.

Such a blatant and open attack on journalistic freedom is both deplorable and condemnable. It is the duty of the state government to come out clean on the issue. As for the EGI, it needs to prove its “neutral credentials” and not outrage selectively.

(Featured Image Source: Outlook)

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