NDTV, CBI Raid and Press Freedom


Is Indian media under pressure to toe government line? This was a question that came up recently, when CBI raided premises of promoters of NDTV. This incidence followed another event, where a spokesperson of ruling party was ejected from a live TV debate. Are these incidences related? Does this indicate that an undercurrent of tension existed between certain TV channel and ruling party, which culminated in CBI raid or vice versa?

The TV channel under discussion is NDTV and its promoters Dr. Prannoy Roy and Mrs. Radhika Roy. NDTV had covered exhaustively Gujarat riot of 2002. The then NDTV reporters Rajdeep Sardesai and Barkha Dutt had telecast live from different districts of Gujarat. Narendra Modi was then chief minister of Gujarat. Many had accused Modi of complicity in Guajarat riots. Though, Mr. Modi had given his version of investigating agencies, though courts have given a clean chit to Mr. Modi, the blot on Mr. Modi remains in the minds of people who do not like his politics.

During congress lead UPA rule, from 2003 to 2014, Mr. Rajdeep Sardesai and Ms. Barkah Dutt were awarded Padmashree. May be recognition was for journalistic excellence, but doubt remains if the award was infact a reward against a political adversary. This suspicion of association of NDTV,  its senior journalists and congress party is further strengthened when a conversation between a corporate lobbyist Ms. Nira Radia and Ms. Barkha Dutt emerged in public domain. It emerged that Ms. Barkha Dutt had agreed to convey congress ministers a request from an alliance partner about a specific ministry. Later on the same ministry got embroiled in a multi crore rupee scam, (one lakh seventy six thousand crore rupee, to be exact). Such incidence and associaitons may indicate that NDTV and its journalists were favorably inclinded towards ruling congress dispensation of the time. This NDTV becomes by association a congress channel. In an article published in Caravan Magazine, further suggest that during UPA rule, NDTV had raised hundreds of million dollars from abroad by floating shell companies. Nothing illegal about the act, except NDTV management refused to disclose who contributed towards this fund. This may raise suspicion if ill gotten wealth acquired through scam during UPA rule had found its way back to India through NDTV. Thus the accusation against the channel becomes one of money laundering.

Many journalists had protested against CBI raid on NDTV promoters. Explanation that NDTV was not raided, but its corporate office was raided for financial irregularity, did not cut ice. Critics have pointed out that apparently freedom of press indicated freedom of NDTV promoters to do things at their will. Because more serious infringements on journalists where a journalist was shot dead or a journalist was burnt alive, violence against journalists in West Bengal and Tamil Nadu, or interference with functioning of a prominent TV channel in Andhra Pradesh did not find any mention in the press club demonstration. Such acts of omission indicate that noise against press freedom is a noised created by selected but important people. Such noise may not have any direct link to ground reality of press functioning in India.Given the insinuation of possible association with political ideology and political dispensation, should NDTV really cry foul on freedom of press?

  1. Journalists Under Attack in Many Parts of the Country. Why Was Huge Press Club Turnout Only for “Our Prannoy”: https://t.co/kEfoxRkZVm
  2. Against fraud or against freedom Mr. Roy: https://t.co/tMr421DhAN
  3. New Indian Express Journalist Attacked, Cameras Destroyed as CPM Hartal Turns Violent in Kerala : https://t.co/N3VifDuROw

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