Jaipur: The Rajasthan government led by chief minister Ashok Gehlot has been served a notice by the Press Council of India (PCI) over his alleged remark on government advertisements published in the newspapers at a press conference in December 16 last year.
The PCI have alleged that Gehlot said, “Vigyapan chahte ho toh khabar dikhao.”
This translates to, ”If you [media] want [government] advertisements, then show [positive] news [of the government]).”
The PCI said Gehlot’s remark is “contrary to the values of democracy and affects the reliability and freedom of the media” and it “expresses concern over the alleged statement made at a public platform which undermines the freedom of the press.”
The notice, issued by PCI secretary Anupama Bhatnagar to the chief secretary of Rajasthan, on January 13 this year, has given two weeks time to the state government to reply.
Commenting on the matter, Bharatiya Janta Party state president Satish Poonia said, “Gehlot is the first chief minister of the state who has been asked for clarification over a statement by the PCI. Hence it seems that press freedom is under threat. The statement by Gehlot, who says he belongs to Gandhian ideology, is disappointing.”
However, state officials claim that the remark was taken out of context. “He simply meant that the media should publicise public welfare schemes. There was no threat,” an official told The Indian Express.
The Press Council of India, under the chairmanship of Justice Chandramauli Kumar Prasad had come in the face of criticism after it sought permission, in August 2019, to intervene in a petition filed by Kashmir Times executive editor Anuradha Bhasin which demanded an end to communications restrictions in Jammu and Kashmir.
The Council then went on to describe the ban on communication and free movement, which many local journalists say has severely affected the functioning of the press in J&K, as being “in the interest of the integrity and sovereignty of the nation”.
Faced with immense criticism, the Council then did a volte face and said it was against the internet restrictions.