There can be no ifs, buts, or qualifications: The arrest of journalist Arnab Goswami by Mumbai Police is wrong. It sends the signal that it’s fine to harass journalists. It also sets a dangerous trend and could encourage other police departments and state governments to do the same.
The context — and there is one — is irrelevant. The history of the deteriorating relationship between Mr. Goswami and the Mumbai police and the Maharashtra government does not matter.
The quality of his journalism — always a subjective call — matters even less. Whether or not we like Mr. Goswami and his style of journalism matters the least. Nor is this time for anyone to relish the irony (as some have done on social media) of Mumbai Police arresting, without reasonable or sufficient cause, a journalist who has often asked for the arrest of people without reasonable or sufficient cause. This is one of those issues where there can only be one side. It is wrong.
No one, including journalists, is above the law — but the operative term there is the law. Everything needs to be done according to the law. In this case, for instance, Mr. Goswami could have been summoned (he is sure to have complied with the summons).
Reports that his family being manhandled — if true — only exacerbate the wrong. Support for Mr. Goswami has poured in from all quarters, and reactions have been immediate. The Editors Guild issued a strong statement. And several political leaders, including the home minister and the information and broadcasting minister, have condemned the attack on “press freedom” and a “free press”. That is a good position to take — consistently and irrespective of the specifics of the journalist/media organization and government involved.