The Editors’ Guild of India is an organization which was created in 1978 to protect and promote the freedom of press and aims at raising the standards of editorial leadership of newspapers and magazines. Such associations are important to safeguard the rights of the fourth pillar of the Indian democracy, the media.
The objectives mentioned above sound legitimate and necessary to be espoused. After all, a democracy cannot thrive in its real sense if there is a clampdown on the free media. Nonetheless, who decides the ramparts of freedom, out of which, even the media cannot step? Another pertinent question which should be articulated is what if such organizations take the ethics of journalism for a ride and support peddling fake news and political propaganda?
Undoubtedly, the editors’ guild is one such organization which not only backs the spread of concocted falsities among the masses, paves way for biased propaganda and vested interests to mislead the citizens of this nation and backs only those media personalities whose ideologies it agrees to and does not even whimper when media personalities who do not condone and support their opinions are tried to be gagged by political leaders. In the guise of a ‘guild’ promoting freedom of the media, this organization is nothing but a coterie of people who are propaganda machines.
On the behest of its political masters, this guild, which should rather talk of and work towards ethical and reliable journalism, leaves no stone unturned to make lies look like the truth and to stand by journalists who become instigators to cause anarchy in the country.
Back in December 2020, to cover- up the participation of Khalistani elements in the ongoing farmers protest, the guild issued an advisory to criticize media houses for labelling the pro- Khalistan participants as ‘Khalistani’ or ‘anti national’ even when innumerable proofs highlighting the same had already come to the fore.
Talking of the same protests, Mandeep Punia, a freelance journalist was arrested by the Delhi Police on 31st January for misbehaving with the SHO and other police personnel and for removing police barricades. Now this anarchist way of reporting from ground zero cannot be condoned or supported but interestingly, the Editors Guild now demands the immediate release of Punia, even when supporting him makes ethical journalism go for a toss. And on February 1st, many ‘journalists’ could be seen protesting outside the Delhi Police headquarters and raising slogans like- “Tanashahi nahi chalegi”! But the fact of the matter is that misbehaving with police personnel who are attempting to avoid any more anarchy and violence is NOT acceptable, this is not freedom but its misuse.
After FIRs were filed against six journalists for their instigating and provocative tweets of which the aftermath was the violence and grave insult of the Indian flag on the Republic Day, the Editors Guild of India came out in support of those journalists even after they instigated people and misled them! The guild has made scathing comments against the FIRs lodged and now demands the Honourable Supreme Court to take cognizance of the fact that journalists’ ‘freedom of speech’ is trampled by repeatedly filing sedition charges against them. The guild also stated that the act of all the six journalists mentioned in the FIRs was in line with established norms of journalistic practice.
The question which then arises is whether the media is free to an extent where it can blatantly take to social media to spread lies and nudge protestors to unleash riots and create narratives which are not only fake but perilous for those who fall prey to their propaganda. The guild further stated that this is nothing but an attempt to browbeat and harass the journalists who reported events while keeping ethics in mind! While, interestingly, all the six journalists had brazenly lied saying that the protestor who died on the Republic Day was shot dead by the police. But the reality was that he died due to his tractor overturning.
Another intriguing fact is the hypocritical nature of the functioning of this guild. On the one hand, this guild creates massive hue and cry to demand the release of a ‘journalist’ who turns hostile against police personnel and to ask for the withdrawal of FIRs against ‘journalists’ who incite riots and spread false information. And on the other hand, it turned to maintain a stony silence when Arnab Goswami, the editor-in-chief of the Republic media network was arrested and had to spend eight days in prison or when each of the thousand members of his editorial team had an FIR filed against them, all of which was clearly an act of political vendetta against the media house.
How is such a drastically opposite behaviour on the part of the guild members to be justified? Is Arnab not a journalist because unlike others, he does not toe the line of the guild and the style of journalism it seeks to promote? If the organization can accuse the central government of stifling the voice of journalists using sedition charges, why didn’t it criticize the much visible vindictive nature of the Maharashtra government back then?
The point is it is high time for the Editors’ Guild to mend its ways. Yes, undoubtedly, the freedom of media is an essential tool to pave the way for a healthy democratic setting. But in the garb of freedom, can media houses and journalists be allowed to cross all limits and act according to their own whims and fancies?
Media is a colossal pillar to promote democracy and the same media forgetting its ethics and morals to turn into spin- doctors for certain political parties or leaders is not only unacceptable but unhealthy and dangerous.