Indian TV anchor's arrest sparks outrage from government

Mumbai (AFP) –


A controversial Indian TV news anchor known for inflammatory right-wing rhetoric was arrested Wednesday in connection with the suicide of a designer who worked on his channel's offices, prompting outrage from Hindu nationalist government ministers.

The arrest of Arnab Goswami, a popular but polarising figure in the country's competitive news market, was broadcast live on Republic TV, the channel he co-founded.

Republic TV has been accused in the past of illegally rigging ratings by bribing people to watch the channel.

Mumbai police official Sudhir Anandrao Taware told AFP that Goswami's arrest was in connection with a suicide case from 2018.

Indian media said it concerned the death of an interior designer who had worked on a project for Goswami before apparently taking his own life.

Reports said a suicide note blamed the anchor and two others for not paying fees of 54 million rupees ($723,000).

Goswami's arrest in Maharashtra state, which is ruled by a coalition of parties opposed to Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), triggered outrage among government ministers.

Goswami is a vociferous supporter of the BJP.

"The arrest of Arnab Goswami is an attack on the freedom of the press," Foreign Minister S. Jaishankar said on Twitter.

"This is not the way to treat the press," Information Minister Prakash Javadekar tweeted.

The BJP, however, has long been accused of harassing the media, and journalists have been arrested and jailed in several states ruled by the party.

Scores of BJP supporters protested against Goswami's arrest in Mumbai, carrying placards emblazoned with the slogan #EmergencyInMaharashtra.

Goswami's most recent drumbeat has been the suicide of Bollywood star Sushant Singh Rajput.

The anchor has suggested Rajput's girlfriend -- actress Rhea Chakraborty -- drove him to his death with a combination of black magic and drugs.

The tabloid-style campaign has been widely criticised by more measured media organisations and analysts.