Raid on NDTV

Roy said that that the CBI raids were a signal to the entire free press of India either to fall in line or to face the music.
Raid on NDTV
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The recent raids of CBI on NDTV co-founder Prannoy Roy has signalled a huge change beneath the edifice of freedom of press. Do we get a message that anyone who will try to uphold truth and give space to dissent would be silenced? Prannoy Roy himself has said that CBI allegations of bank fraud were, "ridiculous, concocted set of facts". On Friday many journalists sided with NDTV and the gathering of media persons at Press Club of India was addressed by many senior journalists including Prannoy Roy himself. Roy said that that the CBI raids were a signal to the entire free press of India either to fall in line or to face the music.

Was he right when he said that, "This is not about NDTV. This is a signal to all of us and the fact that there is no case – there is a ridiculous concocted set of facts makes it even bigger signal. They are trying to tell us we can suppress you even if you have done nothing wrong". The gathering at Press Club was a painful reminder of emergency days. Incidentally Arun Shorie former editor of Indian Express and former union minister in the Vajpayee cabinet was one of the speakers at the press club. Arun Shorie who is very critical of the Modi government talked about the broader contours of how Modi was pushing India to totalitarianism. He claimed that there was no union cabinet as the central government was run by Amit Shah and Modi alone. He said that in the coming months he expects Modi government to be more coercive towards free press and towards those journalists who are trying to stick to their principles. Arun Shorie talked at length of how Modi government was trying to shrink the space of dissent and silence all those journalists who are trying to raise the alarm about the country being pushed to dictatorship.

The speech  of Arun Shorie has  a context. He has been the main player of exposing corruption in the late Rajiv Gandhi's regime and by sitting in the cabin of Indian Express he finally brought down the Rajiv Gandhi movement and pave way for VP Singh to become Prime Minister of India. He has been witness to intimidation, coercion, raids as Indian Express became the main target of then central government for refusing to bow down before the power and authority. But this time the challenges are more serious as the Modi government has created a vicious atmosphere in the media by a whisper campaign. Arun Shorie mentioned about this instilling of fear among the media men by the government. He talked about how tales are being carried in the media circles that Modi and Amit Shah have complete control over CBI, ED and other such wings to control media. He cautioned all the journalists and news channels not to fall trap in the policy of this coercion. Out of experience he told them that if the government is annoyed with them it would be their strength and not weakness. He cautioned all those newspapers and news channels who are trying to follow the wrong policies of government like lamb that ultimately Modi-Amit Shah combine will not spare them also.

Recently many names were coined for all those news channels that are out to endorse every right or wrong decision of Modi govt. Crony journalists or crony news channels did circulate for some time. Finally it was Arun Shorie's name "North Korean Channels' that became very popular. Is the recent raid on NDTV co- founder Prannoy Roy a rare signal for all the journalists to behave and fall in line? Would the journalists re-write the rules and red lines about the journalistic ethics which suit Modi government? The jingoistic news channels for their TRP ratings have really taken the viewers into a make believe world of Modi and his new vision about country. Fictional reporting about Kashmir, magnifying of events in Kashmir and suppression of facts on the overall happenings like violence against Dalits, Muslims and encouragements to cow vigilantism, are some of the indicators that truth is being muzzled and people are being fed downright lies. Suppression of news which should have been a debate on prime time like farmer suicides, beef killings which are basically murders, rise of extreme right wing goondaism and rapes of women on high ways , shows that there would be  a final tussle within the press fraternity in the coming months. Those who are siding with the truth are surely less as they always have been. But will the NDTV raids galvanize all those media men on the one side of fence who still have the burning desire to side with truth and abhor suppression of facts? Will they be able to withstand the pressures and intimidations form an all-powerful government? Can they continue to ignite the minds of all those common people who are still keen to watch news and not noise?      

(The author teaches at Media Education Research Centre, University of Kashmir)

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