‘I'm the father of a 13-year-old girl. I would rather set an example for her than let my friends in the industry be happy or be scared of someone’, said the journalist Josy Joseph. In the times when even multibillion dollar worth media houses, with tremendous power and influence are readily taking down their articles, just not to offend the government, Josy Joseph’s fight against the 1000 crore defamation suit, India’s largest ever, which will not just destroy him, if he loses, but also will deter generations to do the right thing, to do their job of journalism. Josy’s fight is an example of unparalleled bravery in the history of Indian Media and journalism.
Since the Modi Government came to Power, it has been a roller coaster ride for the media industry. From being pro-BJP Arnab became ‘The BJP’ via his new ‘Republic TV’, and now Times Now is struggling to keep up the bootlicking, even surpassing the self owned Zee News.
On the other hand there are NDTV, the Wire and others who are being targeted for not being ‘pro-establishment’ or not falling in line. (The notices and ED enquiry, money laundering case against NDTV)
Then there are Times Of India, DNA and many more who are more than happy to self-censor and take down their articles, if they think it might upset the government. (lik the one on ‘300% increase’ in BJP party president Amit Shah’s assets)
Also, surprisingly there is EPW, with all it’s reputation, who kicks its editor Paranjoy Guha Thakurta after an article on ‘Tax evasion by Adani Group’ which received a legal notice from the Adani Group. He was made to resign, but allowed to get out of the room only after he had taken down the article.
There are number of defamation cases in India. Every ‘worthy’ individual or corporate house slams a defamation case (which is mostly a notice asking for an apology, taking down the story or just threatening) on journalists and media houses.
Beyond this, corporate media houses (NDTV), institutions (Wire) and rich and powerful HNIs (People who run Sameeksha Trust which runs EPW), there is one man fighting India’s biggest civil defamation suit of 1000 crores against him. Notices are not new to him. In his 20 years career of journalism he has been served about 50 notices for the journalism he has done, but this court case is a first. The case is by Jet Airways’ founder Naresh Goyal against Josy Joseph, (currently the National Security Editor of The Hindu) for writing about Goyal’s links to former underworld kingpin Dawood Ibrahim in his book ‘A Feast of Vultures, The Hidden Business of Democracy in India’.
This book talks of how the democracy is kept flawed by many, who are not necessarily politicians, but the middlemen who literally run the government and parallelly the black money empire. The book attempts to expose the dirty underbelly of modern India, from arms dealers to mining companies to the underworld. It even name-checks the Ambanis. The book isn’t a piece of fiction, nor an opinion piece, but a researched journalistic work for which Josy has proofs. What it tells about India is not just terrifying but sad beyond imagination.
In an interview given to scroll, after he was served with a legal notice by Jet Airways, talking about how he sees the legal battle ahead of him, Josy had said, ‘I think our country still has a very free judiciary. I am not unduly worried about any legal implications. I am very determined that if there is something that comes my way, I will fight it till the highest court. Because a time comes in each one's life, when we have to fight for ourselves individually. You have to decide, what is it that matters to you most? Money? Friendship? Or is it something more?’
The whole case goes beyond him. It is an attempt to silence anyone and everyone who wants to do their job with honesty and integrity. Answering Kanishka Gupta ‘On what if he loses?’, in an article which appeared in scroll.in, Josy said “I don’t mind going bankrupt or even being sent to prison. But every citizen should then worry about India, judiciary, and the manipulative powers of global conglomerates.”
What Josy represents is beyond the book, beyond the legal notices he has been dealing with and also beyond the 1000 crore lawsuit. He represents a small section of the society which is fighting against the odds, against the damage to them and more often than not, alone.
Josy’s colleagues at The Hindu have suggested starting a crowdfunding campaign to help him with his legal fees, but he told them to start one for the courageous, and increasingly vulnerable, small-town journalists and RTI activists who have been fighting valiantly to “protect the idea of India”.
We just don’t only need to stand by them, but celebrate such people. There have been several cases of legal notices against independent journalists, eg. Neha Dixit for her story ‘Operation Beti Uthao’, editors of Mint, various news channels, but a legal case, actually going on in a court that too one worth 1000 crores is that of Josy’s. It has been a year since his book was published and he has been fighting the lawsuit, bravely. This requires unparallel bravery.
It is for us, the ordinary citizens that they are fighting. We have to rise above our apathy and do something beyond being passive spectators. We have to realise that our silence is what strengthens the resolve of the people who are hell bent on destroying the country and it is our voice and support which will strengthen people like Josy and help them do the amazing work they do for us.
The dignity of the media and journalism fraternity is falling and the they are losing their credibility, by becoming means of propaganda rather than of presenting the facts and the true narrative. By running and setting the government agenda, rather than being objective and reporting the reality, the majority media today has become pawns in the hands of the governments and corporations.
I have known Josy for some time now and everytime I talk to him, I meet him, I get new hope. In these dark times for the media fraternity, people like Josy stand tall. They are the ones who help reinforce the rapidly fading belief that structures have become shackles and there is nothing left to fight. They are the ones who show us that we can still fight, or rather we have to fight for the future.
Josy writes, ‘I dedicate this book to My daughter Supriya and her generation. May you inherit a better India’. So, we have to fight so we can create a better, fair and just society and country, irrespective of the struggle.
For me, Josy Joseph and the unnamed, unsung and largely unknown fighters like him represent the Real Heroes of our ‘New India’, because these heroes without the cape represent the resilience, the grit and determination that once built this country and continue the fight for right without the want for glory.
Disclaimer: The views expressed here are the author's personal views, and do not necessarily represent the views of Newsclick.