The recent Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) searches at the residence of NDTV chief Prannoy Roy in the national capital and in Dehradun for allegedly causing losses to a private bank have attracted varied responses from all sections of the society. However, senior journalists and other eminent citizens have unequivocally seen the raids as both direct and indirect attempts of the government to muzzle critical media.
Some of the reactions:
Intent of the Modi government is to have a docile press:
S. Nihal Singh,
Former editor of The Statesman
I do not have the full facts of the case. But as far as the present government is concerned, its policy is one of intimidation of the free press. That is clear in various ways.
The obvious intent of the Modi government is to have a docile press or media. It is speaking in various ways to put pressure or give inducements especially to television media, which is the most widespread in terms of influence.
This has been apparent for a while now. To me, the trend is clear. I have lived through the Emergency. The intent of the present government is the same as was during the Emergency but the instruments are different. During Emergency, the government used blunt instruments. Today, it uses various forms of influence and intimidation of the media.
I was editing The Statesman during the Emergency and I saw a section of the media kneel in front of the government. There were only a few of us who fought the Emergency. But I would still single out the Modi government for one reason. It is more efficient and more ruthless in its onslaught.
Government may come after every media house that is critical
Veteran journalist and former high commissioner of India to UK
This [the raid] is sheer attack on freedom of press. Because NDTV has been asking uncomfortable questions, the government has used the CBI against it. Without declaring the Emergency, the government is creating the same kind of atmosphere. One by one, it may come after every media house which is critical. What they have done against NDTV is reprehensible and should be condemned by everybody.
What we are witnessing now is an undeclared Emergency
Former editor of Jansatta
I do not see the raids on NDTV as mere vindictive action but also a larger message that the government is trying to send across not only to Prannoy Roy but also the media as a whole. The government has been systematically destroying cultural institutions like the censor board, FTII, IGNCA etc. And now it is following the same policy against media.
Critical television media hurts this government the most as it reaches even the illiterate population. It has tactfully controlled the editorial content of many television channels and the corporates which support the government have already bought off many of these channels. And many have already fallen in line with the government.
It is actually scared of NDTV and many such media agencies, which can expose the government in its wrongdoings.
We must understand the government needs crony media houses to sell the government’s PR-driven campaigns and showcase its achievements even when there are none. Even demonetisation was projected as a good measure when economists have panned it.
Channels such as NDTV did a critical appraisal of such government claims. And those who still practice this real journalistic exercise are being attacked now. The situation has become so bad that the BJP leaders have been openly threatening journalists who ask critical questions in press conferences.
People are saying that the CBI raids on NDTV happened only after Nidhi Razdan asked the BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra to leave the show. But it is not just one incident. Ravish Kumar had, on the third anniversary of the government, done a show, which he named ‘Sarkarutsav’ (celebrations only by the government). This too sent wrong signals to the government.
There seems to be a pattern on how media houses are being attacked these days. Whenever there are allegations against the top leaders of the government, it says that law will take its own course. But at the same time, it shows urgency to use its agency to raid a respectable television channel on the basis of a private complaint. Where was this urgency when Narendra Modi and other BJP leaders were facing charges of corruption in the Sahara-Birla diaries?
The government has hit a new low – in fact the lowest of the low. Repression during Emergency was declared, what we are witnessing now is an undeclared Emergency, and probably more dangerous as the problem is structural.
Senior journalist and chairman and editorial director of Business Standard Private Limited
The CBI is in the dock and has to demonstrate it is acting legitimately.
‘Shutting Up NDTV’
Editorial in The Tribune
The “law” is a very convenient instrument. A clear message is being sent to the media fraternity: resist at your own cost. The government is relying on the frictions and feuds within the media community to drown out the voices of protest. It is an irony: no government has enjoyed so much unsolicited acclaim and support from the electronic media for so long as has the Modi sarkar these years, yet it will not countenance one channel not bowing sufficiently low in deference to the powers that be. A testing time ahead for one and all.
NDTV raids are part of a strategy of persecution
Renowned human rights lawyer
We live in the time of intimacy with persecution, for exercising our rights; we are in a sense prisoners of our conscience even though not behind bars. To speak up or not to speak up is a question constantly on our minds; this is the chilling effect of self-censorship. In times of fear, I cannot for a moment forget the speech made by Barack Obama, when campaigning for Hillary Clinton, he said, fear is the biggest enemy of democracy. He was urging all of us to speak up if we are to preserve democracy. It was that statement that made me understand what is happening in India now. Like many of your other contributors, I too lived through the emergency and my offices were raided by the CBI for representing dismissed railway workers which was organised by George Fernandes. Everyone knows that the railway worker strike was the proximate cause though not the underlying cause for the emergency of 1975. Raids by the CBI and emergency situations are linked in history and in my mind.
What we are seeing today, is a Super Emergency, because it is undeclared. We at the Lawyers Collective know what is persecution. Following our legal defence of the challenge to the discharge of Amit Shah, we received a show cause notice that our accounts under FCRA were not in order. Our registration was cancelled and our accounts were frozen. Let me be clear, it is not the denial of foreign funds that matters, it is the constant allegations which were made against us – that we represent anti-national terrorists such as Yakoob Memon, and hence we are also by association anti-nationals who need to have their FCRA cancelled. This is the meaning of persecution, using power for a tangential purpose, to silence a point of view. Whether or not your accounts are in order is not an issue, accounts after all can always be settled, it is the punishment, public punishment, for being who you are.
The raids on NDTV are also part of the strategy of persecution, elimination of all oppositional points of view is the motive for the raids.
I am reminded of the poem by Bertolt Brecht.
“First of all, they came to take the gypsies
and I was happy because they pilfered.
Then they came to take the Jews and I said nothing,
because they were unpleasant to me.
Then they came to take homosexuals,
and I was relieved, because they were annoying me.
Then they came to take the Communists,
and I said nothing because I was not a Communist.
One day they came to take me,
and there was nobody left to protest.
Bertold Brecht, inspired by Emil Gustav Friedrich Martin Niemöller”
They came for the opposition leaders, they came for students, they came for minorities, they came for NGOs, and now for the press. This is the reason why we must unite and protest the raids by the “caged parrot” on the press, not just on the promoters of NDTV.