Spokesperson of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) R K Gaur sought to counter an editorial in The New York Times for being ‘one-sided’ on Thursday, after it suggested that the Indian media is facing a “new level of intimidation” under the current government. The opinion, titled ‘India’s Battered Free Press’, was written in the wake of the central agency’s raids at the NDTV founders’ offices earlier this month.
The editorial suggested that the government has not investigated large debt-ridden corporates but in a ‘dramatic’ move targeted a ‘defiant’ media company. Gaur, in response, said the piece does not consider the six-year long investigation into RRPR Holdings, the holding company of NDTV, by different tax and law enforcement agencies.
“The ICICI bank’s loss is merely tip of the iceberg. RRPR Holdings, the holding company of NDTV, is also being investigated for irregularities in the mobilization of funds used for loan repayment. There have also been serious defaults in tax payment,” Gaur wrote.
Further, the NYT piece says journalists in the country have been facing increasing’pressures’ since Prime Minister Narendra Modi took office in 2014, resulting in some even indulging in self-censorship. “They risk their careers — or lives — to report news that is critical of the government or delves into matters that powerful politicians and business interests do not want exposed. News outlets that run afoul of the government can lose access to officials. The temptation to self-censor has grown, and news reports are increasingly marked by a shrill nationalism that toes the government line,” it reads.
Gaur replied that India has a “robust and independent” judiciary that protects democratic freedom. “In this entire case due process of law is being followed. India has a robust and independent judiciary that strongly protects democratic freedom and that an aggrieved person can always approach. India does not require any lesson on freedom of the press from The Times. Our institutions and traditions are nurtured by our rich and diverse cultural heritage and democratic ethos,” he said.
Defending the agency, he added it is currently probing over 100 criminal cases, worth a total loan default of over $5 billion. He said several loan defaulters are already in prison, with their assets attached.
Further, Gaur defended the decision to take NDTV Hindi off air for 24 hours after it reported the sensitive attack on an air base, saying it was taken after an inquiry, which NDTV participated in, was conducted. “No democracy can allow the country’s security and public safety to be compromised by irresponsible reporting of terrorist incidents,” he said.