Several senior journalists on Friday came together to protest against an “Emergency-like situation” which they alleged was due to “attempts to muzzle the voices” of media with NDTV founder Prannoy Roy demanding that issues involving his channel be resolved in time-bound manner.
The protest, which saw some senior journalists like Kuldeep Nayyar, Arun Shourie, H K Dua and S Nihal Singh in attendance at the lawns of the Press Club of India here, came days after the CBI conducted searches at the residence of Roy here and three other locations for allegedly causing losses to a private bank.
The NDTV had described the actions as a “witch-hunt” based on “same old” false accusations.
Former Union minister and veteran journalist Shourie alleged that the government has been controlling the media through two major instruments — one by “offering bribe” through advertisements and the other by “subterranean spreading of fear”.
“Now they are using the third instrument, which is overt pressure and they have made NDTV an example of that. I believe this will intensify in the coming months,” he said.
Shourie alleged that the government would in future not only resort to managing but also suppressing the voices of dissent.
“If you (journalists) think that if you give prominence to articles of some of the ministers in newspapers or give them air time, they will help you in crisis.
“In fact, when the assault comes on you, none of them will help,” Shourie said.
He said the present government is run by “two and half men”, without elaborating whom he referred to. “There is no minister here. The government is of two-and-a-half men,” he alleged.
“Instead of buying peace with concession, I would urge non cooperation…just boycott their (government’s) press conferences, deny them that,” Shourie said.
Eminent jurist Fali S Nariman said no one is immune to being prosecuted from criminal offence. “But the manner and circumstances and the so-called justification of the CBI raids give me reason to believe that all this is definitely an unjustified attack on press and media,” he said.
“We are meeting here to stop future deligitimisatioon of the media,” he said, adding similar attempts to muzzle the voices of media were made by the Indira Gandhi government.
Veteran journalist Kuldeep Nayyar urged journalists to rise to the occasion in this battle for independent media. “We cannot and should not allow anybody to muzzle the voice of media. We are facing more or less the same situation as in the Emergency,” he said.
Addressing the gathering, Roy said, “I commit here today that we will answer all the charges openly and transparently. What all I ask is to please make it a time-bound process.”
Members of the Press Club of India, the Federation of Press Clubs of India, Delhi Union of Journalists, the Press Association, the Foreign Correspondents Club, the Indian Women’s Press Corps and the Editors Guild of India were also present.