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Mainstream, VOL 61 No 43-44 October 21 & 28, 2023

Assault on the Media: Subversion of Democracy | Arup Kumar Sen

Saturday 21 October 2023, by Arup Kumar Sen


In his address on a public occasion in March 2023, the chief justice of India, D Y Chandrachud, argued: The media is the fourth pillar in the conception of the State, and thus an integral component of democracy. A functional and healthy democracy must encourage the development of journalism as an institution that can ask difficult questions to the establishment – or as it is commonly known, “speak truth to power” …The press must remain free if a country is to remain a democracy. (See The Indian Express, March 24, 2023)

What happened on October 3, 2023, is really alarming: “Delhi police’s special cell…raided the online news portal NewsClick and several associated journalists, and arrested editor-in-chief Prabir Purkayastha, in a terror case alleging the portal received Chinese funds and ran an ‘anti-India agenda’. The force, which raided over 30 premises in Delhi, also searched the Mumbai home of social activist Teesta Setalvad…” (The Telegraph, October 4, 2023)

In the wake of this assault on the media, 18 media organizations wrote a joint letter to the CJI, D Y Chandrachud, reminding him of his commitment to the freedom of the media and “expressing alarm over attacks on press freedom”. To put it in the words of the letter:

“Our fear is that state actions against the media have been taken beyond measure, and should they be allowed to continue in the direction they are headed, it may be too late for corrective or remedial steps. It is, therefore, our collective view that the Higher Judiciary must now intervene to put an end to the increasingly repressive use of investigating agencies against the media.” (See The Wire, October 4, 2023)

It is an open question whether the ‘Higher Judiciary’ be able to maintain its relative autonomy in the wake of coercive assertion of State Power in India.

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