Free speech under threat in Journalism?

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The termination of Angshukanta Chakraborty, the Political Editor of DailyO, by India Today Group, only highlights about the consequences experienced by journalists in the aftermath of speaking their mind on social media. How can the media house suppress the voice of Angshukanta who only spoke about publication houses who are shielding journalists for spreading fake news? She only had posted a general opinion pertaining to working style of media today and has not taken name of any organisation. Why did the publication house blow this issue out of proportion when they could have sorted out this matter internally?

Angshukanta is not the lone victim who had to suffer for posting comments on social networking sites. Earlier Quint had removed stories and reviews written by journalist Suprateek Chatterjee after he had tweeted against Prime Minister Narendra Modi which the organisation had found offensive. Suprateek tweeted, “Good to know that Modi is one year closer to retirement/death #IChooseOptimism.” Chatterjee’s tweet invited the ire of Modi supporters as he was trolled for commenting against the PM.

Earlier netizens had abused journalist Dhanya Rajendran for comparing Shah Rukh Khan starrer Jab Harry Met Sejal with an older film of Tamil superstar Vijay called Sura. A hashtag #PublicityBeepDhanya was created and was spread in more than 30,000 tweets to demean Dhanya. After she complained about this matter with Twitter, the hashtag was blacklisted.

Neha Shaw, Content Marketing Manager at Yethi Consulting said that imposing pressure on journalists by including clauses in their employment contract or any violation of freedom of speech is not justified. She also said, “The organisation should respect freedom of speech and expression, especially of their employees. It is entirely his/her willingness to comment over a particular issue and she has not maligned the reputation of the organisation.”

Everybody has the right to speak what they feel about added Neha. “Angshukanta is not the only one who has raised her voice about an issue. In the era of open letters, how can someone or any organisation get offended by a mere tweet!” she asked.

Citizens have always batted for free speech on internet. Netizens have raised their concerns whenever the government has tried to regulate social media. According to them, since India is a democratic country, the right to freedom of expression must not be curbed.

K S Aditya Rao, Producer at Bloomberg Quint said that the tweet was very vague and it was not addressing anybody. Any hasty action cannot be taken on a vague tweet like that. “Angshukanta has not taken names of any channel and has just generalised her statements. She just quoted an ongoing thing happening in the entire profession. When she is saying that action should be taken by secular politicians and industrialist, then indirectly she is indicating the ownership of media, which she should not have done. Since she had posted from her personal social media account, the company doesn’t have any authority to hold her liable for it.”

When asked about media companies framing social media etiquette laws for employees, he said, “Such laws won’t stand in the court of law even for a minute and it only creates a hindrance of free speech.”

Today media has lost its credibility and honest journalists are paying the price for speaking the truth. Already media has been termed as ‘fake’, ‘paid’, ‘bazaru’, and ‘presstitute’ for publishing stories sans verification.

Even though the management had asked Chakraborty to delete her tweet, she took a firm stand and refused to remove her post. According to her she has not done anything wrong and she stood by what she said.

A Delhi based website journalist on the condition of anonymity said, “As a journalist, the first thing that comes as a priority with our profession is to serve the public with the truth. If living in a diverse country means we’re having to know where to draw the line while speaking the truth or simply justifying our roles as a journalist (giving correct information to the public) then we definitely live in an illusion. If the said truth doesn’t match with what a particular company or society wants to hear or know, that doesn’t change the fact that it is the truth after all.”

She said that journalists are expected to remain honest and crude in the sense of telling the truth to the public. “This practice shouldn’t be stopped just because endorsements or advertisements from certain politicians or companies bring the organisation we work for the requisite revenues and let us get our salaries every month.”

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