Freedom of Expression

Read: Tripura CM’s I-Day Speech That DD, AIR Refused to Broadcast

Tripura Chief Minister Manik Sarkar. Credit: PTI

New Delhi: Tripura chief minister Manik Sarkar on Tuesday alleged that Doordarshan and All India Radio (AIR) refused to broadcast his Independence Day speech unless he made changes to it. The six-minute speech, which was scheduled to be aired at 6.30 am, was not broadcast after his government refused to make any changes to it.

According to a Times of India report, the letter that was sent by Prasar Bharati to Agartala AIR said, “Keeping in view the sanctity and solemnity attached with the occasion the broadcast is meant for, the CEO, Prasar Bharati was also consulted and the collective decision taken at Delhi advises that the broadcast may not go with its existing content. AIR/Prasar Bharati will however be more than happy if the Hon’ble Chief Minister agrees to reshape the content making it suitable to the solemnity of the occasion and sentiments of the people of India at large.”

“Before us on this year’s Independence Day are quite a few very relevant, important and contemporary issues. Unity in diversity is India’s traditional heritage. Great values of secularism have helped in keeping Indians together as a nation. But today, this spirit of secularism is under attack,” Sarkar said in his speech.

The chief minister went on to speak about cow vigilantism and said that conspiracies were underway to create divisions in society in the name of religion, caste and community.

Read the full text of his speech here:

DD, in a letter, refuted the allegations of blacking out the chief minister’s speech. The letter said the news unit of the local station of DD at Agartala gave “wide coverage to the chief minister’s independence day programme and telecast report running to 29 minutes and 45 seconds out of which the CM’s speech coverage was for 12 minutes. This was telecast at 1900 hours.”

The letter also said that a repeat telecast of the programme was going to be aired at 4.45 pm today.

A much-delayed clarification, Doordarshan’s letter makes it clear that it had indeed stopped the broadcast of Sarkar’s speech, scheduled at 6:30 a.m on August 15, on Prasar Bharati’s instructions. It appears that only after the chief minister’s office and Left parties raised the issue on social media that DD was forced to air the speech in the evening without any alterations.

Conventionally, chief ministers’ speeches on Independence Day are broadcast live. The attempt to purge Sarkar’s speech puts a question mark on the autonomy of Prasar Bharati, Left leaders said.

Note: This article was updated to include the details of the DD letter.