The Modi government seems to be making efforts to turn the media into ‘his master’s voice’ that bows before the authorities and the government.
The BJP government has been following an aversive approach towards media ever since it came to power. In the present circumstances prevailing in the country, only those media outlets that submit to the government are taken into account. There are also strategies in line for ‘handling’ those who pose a resistance and annoy the government and the machinery or brush aside the power politics of the Centre. Former Home Minister P Chidambaram had said that the BJP government was imposing an ‘infringed control’ over the owners of prominent media, intimidating them. The experiences of the present day Indian media prove that his accusations cannot be dismissed as a mere political allegation. Even as an ‘undeclared emergency’ exists in raising criticisms against the government, the Sangh Parivar has been trying to bully and control the fourth estate. The CBI raid on Monday at the offices and residence of Prannoy Roy, NDTV founder and its Executive Chairman, can be seen as part of this intimidation. According to the CBI sources, the raid was conducted after allegations of defrauding a private bank in which government too has shares, and causing losses. The agency officials said that searches have been conducted at four other places. However, the channel denounced the move as a politically driven ‘witch-hunt’. Although the channel had earlier served notices from Income Tax Department and Enforcement Directorate, they point out that making the CBI intervene was a rare instance. The observers however do not see the raid as a legal and ordinary move.
The allegations that the raid was a retaliatory move for throwing out BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra from the discussion panel during a debate show, couldn’t be ignored. When the channel asked the spokesperson to stop his unnecessary clamor during the debate, Patra accused NDTV of having an agenda. Nidhi Razdan, a senior anchor, then asked the spokesperson either to aplogise or to leave the show mid-way. Even before the heat over the incident died down, came the CBI raid on Monday. The channel authorities said that it was a strong message for the journalists who function freely and independently and pose questions fearlessly. It also added that the move was a futile exercise to silence independent voices in the media. The Information and Broadcasting Minister Venkaiah Naidu made clear that there wouldn’t be any political interference in the CBI raids and that there was no witch-hunt behind the moves of the agency that was functioning only based on the available information.
While the BJP leaders say that law was taking its course, the CBI raid can be seen as an attempt to destroy NDTV and throw the channel into legal tangles. The timing makes it clear that the move was part of a deadly law that is being planned to keep a check on media under the BJP rule. The tendency of tackling those who oppose Modi and the BJP, using power within the government as well as outside, is seen escalating. The fact that media persons including a Malayali female scribe and veteran national journalists like Barkha Dutt are compelled to do their jobs under thousands of threatening calls and messages, is shameful to a democratic country like India. At a time of widespread prevalence of repressive fascism when goondaism is being legalized, moves are being conspired to undermine the fourth pillar of democracy that should act as guardians of the society. The resistance should be raised from within the media itself.
NDTV’s statement that it wouldn’t succumb to a move to suppress democracy and freedom of expression of media and that it would continue to fight against the move to destroy the democratic systems that make India proud, is welcomed. All those who wish to see democracy and freedom flourish in the country have the responsibility to keep this light of spirit from being put out in this kaliyug.