My Complaint to Press Council of India against Sagarika Ghose, Consulting Editor Times of India for her false and inflammatory statements on Twitter
May 26, 2017
Smt. Vibha Bhargava,
Press Council of India,
Soochna Bhavan, 8-C.G.O. Complex,
Lodhi Road, New Delhi-110003
Subject: Complaint under Section 14 of the Press Council Act, 1978 against Ms. Sagarika Ghose, journalist and Consulting Editor, Times of India
The instant complaint is being lodged under Section 14 of the Press Council Act, 1978 against Ms. Sagarika Ghose, journalist and Consulting Editor, Times of India in relation to her tweet dated May 19, 2017 on social media platform, Twitter. An image of the said tweet, which Ms. Ghose has since deleted but not really retracted, is enclosed. (Annexure 1). The contents of the tweet are extracted herein below:
“Mobs are hunting and killing Muslims across India and THERE IS NO JUSTICE FOR THE KILLERS! WAKE UP, GOI!”
The sweeping, unqualified, baseless and fear-mongering nature of the tweet speaks for itself, thereby squarely attracting Section 153A of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 for promoting enmity and disharmony between communities. This is a text-book instance of spreading ill will and enemity between communities. Therefore, itis a cause for serious alarm for every concerned citizen who believes in peaceful co-living between diverse communities of India.
While this is not a one-off instance and is consistent with Ms. Ghose’s past conduct whereby she has passed off unverified malafide rumours as facts, what makes her current conduct, unpardonable and indefensible is that her tweet gives the impression that Muslims are being slaughtered en masse on a daily basis in India.
Such inflammatory statements have been used as convenient propaganda material by Jihadist groups to justify putting India on top of their hit list for terror attacks.
At a time when Islamist fury is on the rise in India and sympathisers of ISIS in India and abroad are looking for excuses to justify their murderous acts and indoctrination of impressionable Muslim youth in India, Ms. Ghose has time and again contributed to exacerbating the situation. The resultant fear and mistrust among Hindus and Muslims endangers national security and the safety of the every Indian citizen, regardless of his or her faith.
When I and several others responded to Ghose’s inflammatory & baseless tweet, saying we will report the matter to police unless she retracts and aplogizes publicly, she removed the tweet saying, she is deleting it in deference to “hurt” feelings. (Annexure 2) By bringing in “hurt sentiments” she opens us to the charge of “intolerance” of the kind displayed by religious bigots. This amounts to adding insult to injury. We objected to her tweet because it was based on outright lies and deliberate attempt to create communal disharmony, not because our religious feelings were “hurt” by her calumny.
Her lack of remorse at her feckless behaviour is evident in her pseudo-apology. Her irresponsible conduct cannot be taken lightly because she is employed in a senior position at one of the most prestigeous names in Indian journalism—namely The Times of India.
Ms. Ghose cannot hide behind the oft-used alibi of free speech to defend her reprehensible tweet and conduct because the restrictions that apply to free speech under the Constitution are squarely applicable in the instant case. No individual or organization has an absolute and unbridled right to free speech, especially speech that promotes communal discord and puts in harm’s way the security of the country. Most important of all, her statement is factually incorrect. Even in countries, such as the USA and UK,where free speech is celebrated, wilful failure to undertake due diligence or deliberate spread of wrong information with inflammatory intent results in the journalist being blacklisted for employment by all credible media houses.
We urge the PCI to take firm action against the deviant behaviour of Ms. Ghose and initiate proceedings under the Press Council Act as well as under the Indian Penal Code, 1860 to make an example of her for the rest of the journalistic community. This measure is urgently required for upholding the dignity of journalism since there is an increasing tendency among media persons to serve hidden agendas through their provocative writings and statements which have little grounding in reality. This is eroding people’ faith in the Fourth Estate in addition to exposing Indian society to greater risk from Islamist terror.
In the interest of keeping alive the public’s faith in PCI’s ability to call irresponsible journalists and media houses to account, it is imperative for the PCI to forthwith initiate appropriate legal action against Ms. Ghose and inform members of the public, including the complainant, of the action it takes against Ms. Ghose.
Madhu Purnima Kishwar
Maulana Azad National Professor, ICSSR