New Delhi, November 5, 2020 – The Committee to Protect Journalists today called on authorities in the Indian state of Maharashtra to release Republic TV anchor and editor-in-chief Arnab Goswami after he was arrested and ordered to be held for at least two weeks.
Authorities are investigating allegations that Goswami abetted a suicide in May 2018, according to news reports. Yesterday, a local court in Alibaug, about 55 miles south of Mumbai, ordered him detained until November 18 while police investigate and decide whether to charge the journalist, according to news agency Press Trust of India.
“Holding Arnab Goswami in prison while police conduct their investigation only heightens suspicions that the actions against him are in retaliation for critical coverage,” said Aliya Iftikhar, CPJ’s senior Asia researcher. “Goswami should be released immediately and authorities across India should stop harassing journalists.”
According to the English daily Indian Express, interior designer Anvay Naik named Goswami and two others in his 2018 suicide note, accusing them of failing to pay him money that they owed him. In 2019, after an initial investigation, authorities cleared the three individuals of connection with the suicide, reports said, but reopened the case in May 2020 upon Naik’s daughter’s request.
The police have also arrested the other two individuals named in the suicide note, Feroz Shaikh and Nitesh Sarda, according to The Hindu. In a statement yesterday on Twitter, Republic TV denied that Goswami, who had done business with Naik, is culpable in driving Naik to suicide. CPJ emailed the news outlet for comment but did not receive a reply.
In its statement, Republic TV said that Goswami was arrested in retaliation for the channel’s critical reporting on the Maharashtra government and Mumbai police, and that police assaulted him during the arrest. In videos posted by news outlets, which CPJ reviewed, police can be seen forcibly removing Goswami from his residence. Police have denied that they assaulted the journalist, reports said and on November 4 filed a new police complaint alleging that Goswami assaulted a female officer during his arrest, according to Scroll.
According to CPJ’s review of the news channel’s website and its YouTube page, Republic TV has published several critical and investigative stories about police and politicians in recent months. In the last few months, CPJ has documented three other police investigations into journalists at Republic TV.
Mumbai Police are also investigating Goswami, a news anchor who is the face of the channel’s prime time debate, on allegations of hate speech, targeting of the Muslim community, and inciting communal tension during his television appearances, according to news reports. In October this year, the Editors Guild of India called on the journalist to “behave responsibly” and not “hurt the collective credibility of the media.”
The Maharashtra state government is run by an alliance of three parties which, on the federal level, are in opposition to the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP): Shiv Sena, Indian National Congress, and the Nationalist Congress Party. Goswami founded the right-wing Republic TV in 2017 in partnership with Rajeev Chandrasekhar, a businessman and a federal lawmaker with the BJP.
Maharashtra police did not immediately respond to CPJ’s email requesting comment.