In a letter addressed to Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, News Broadcasters Association (NBA) has demanded the release and dropping of charges against ABP Majha Journalist Rahul Gurugranth Kulkarni.
“We are in an extreme state of shock and anguish with respect to a recent unreasonable arrest of a Senior Journalist Rahul Gurunath Kulkarni from ABP Majha Channel. The FIR is based upon some reports which purported to draw the connection between the gathering at Mumbai Bandra West station and a news story by him,” NBA said in its letter.
“The said Senior Journalist is a person with impeccable record and known for his upright journalism and would always have made himself available to the investigating agency/agencies for any purpose and thus there is no question of him fleeing from or evading the investigating agency which necessitated an arrest in the current Pandemic situation exposing him to the risk of contracting the Virus,” it added.
Condemning the arrest, NBA said the arrest is a serious infringement on the right of freedom of speech and is a frontal assault on the free Press. “The fundamental right of freedom of speech is sought to be gagged and any further custody and incarceration of him would be a serious infraction of the constitutional mandate and would also threaten his life,” it said.
NBA said that it believes in promoting excellence in broadcasting standards and all the members are governed by a Code of Ethics, Broadcasting Standards and Self-Regulation.
“NBA has constituted an Adjudicatory Body namely the “News Broadcasting Standards Authority” which is an independent body headed by retired Supreme Court Judge Justice Arjun Sikri. Its task is to consider and adjudicate upon complaints about broadcasts. The Authority comprises of, apart from Chairperson, who is a Retired Judge of the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India; Four eminent persons and Four eminent editors employed with the broadcasters. All cases are adjudicated in a fair and impartial manner and it is empowered to regulate its own procedure.
“The Authority is empowered to pass various orders and they can warn, admonish, censure, express disapproval against and/or impose a fine upon the broadcaster and/or recommend to the concerned authority for suspension / revocation of license of such broadcaster. It has the power to impose a fine to the tune of Rs.1,00,000/- which can be recovered from the concerned Broadcaster. All such complaints can be made to :-
News Broadacsting Standards Authority
C/o News Broadcasters Association
Mantec House, C-56/5, 2nd Floor, Sector 62 – Noida – 201 301”
“It would be therefore in the larger interest of press freedom that a journalist and reporter of the standing of Rahul Gurunath Kulkarni is freed from all charges so that the sanctity of the press freedom is restored. Any complaints with respect to the said or any content may kindly be made to the NBSA at the above-stated address and we assure you that justice would be done and in case of any violation, appropriate orders would be passed in accordance with the NBSA regulations,” the letter concluded.