The decision of the Central Government to bestow eminent journalist Arnab Goswami with ‘Y’ level security has evoked more amusement than alarm. The call to provide the editor-in-chief of Times Now with ‘Y’ level security was taken after the Intelligence Bureau perceived a threat to his life from ‘Pakistan based terrorists groups.’ And now the journalist is set to receive 24-hour protection from around 20 security personnel, including two personal security officers, who will guard him from close distance.
The journalist is known for his prime time news-hour debates, has been very vocal against terrorists organisations and Pakistan since Uri terror attacks on 18th September in which 19 army soldiers lost their lives. His security is likely to be looked after by the Maharashtra government.
The Nation Wants to Know
Irrespective of how popular or reviled he or she maybe, when a journalist is under threat, the media community needs to sit up and ask a few questions for the sake of media freedom. Here are some of them:
- How did the Intelligence Bureau arrive at this threat perception? Did it receive or intercept any message from said terror organisations?
- Which organisations were offended and have issued threats against the Times Now editor-in-chief?
- Why was the security category fixed at “Y”? Why not “Z” or “Z plus”?
- Which particular comments made by the Times Now editor had seemed more threatening (and while we are at it, it would help to know which were less threatening).
- Did the threat perception affect only the editor in chief of Times Now or all the staffers and workers of the news channel? After all, surely the staff need to be protected in the event of an attack? What plan does the Union Ministry of Home Affairs have for the safety and security of other members of the Times Now team?
- And what about protection to the regular invitees in Times Now debates? Are they safe?
- How much is taxpayer money being allocated to this very important task and is it being utilised wisely?
- We are told Mukesh Ambani pays Rs 15 lakhs for his Z-security on a cost reimbursement basis. Will the Times Now editor-in-chief and his employers, Bennett, Coleman and Co. Ltd., be similarly burdened?
- Are the security personnel trained and equipped adequately? Is a check done periodically on the quality and efficacy of their bulletproof vests? Are they given non-lethal weapons too, like the pellet guns so much in fashion these days?
More Issues at Stake
When journalists or for that matter any citizen is threatened, it is the state’s responsibility to protect them. Despite our Constitution not granting any special category, journalists are harbingers of truth and undergo great pains with considerable risk to their lives to bring out the real facts. So if someone is getting protection, it shouldn’t be scoffed at.
What should be scoffed at is that this cloak of security is present around some known figures sitting in their studios. The ones who do the real job of risking their lives, collecting facts are left to fend for themselves. Since 2010, it is to be noted 22 journalists have been killed. And in all the cases there was fair warning with the threat perception very real. FIRs were lodged naming the persons who would attack them. And yet, they had zero security.
Something to ponder about right?