NDTV co-founder Prannoy Roy on Friday said the CBI’s allegations of bank fraud were a “ridiculous, concocted set of facts” and that the move was a “signal to the entire free press of India”. Addressing a gathering of mediapersons at Press Club of India on Friday, four days after raids were conducted on properties of NDTV founders Radhika and Prannoy Roy, he said, “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 an even bigger signal. They are trying to tell us — we can suppress you even if you have done nothing wrong.”
Roy was joined by senior journalists such as Kuldip Nayar, Om Thanvi, Raj Chengappa, Shekhar Gupta, Rajdeep Sardesai, former minister, author and journalist Arun Shourie, journalist and former Rajya Sabha member H K Dua and jurist Fali Nariman. Speakers criticised the CBI raids as an attempt to curb freedom of the press, while cautioning media organisations against becoming instruments in the hands of the government.
Roy said their fight was not against the CBI, I-T Department or the ED but against politicians who he alleged were using these institutions and “ruining and destroying our country”.
Asking for a time-bound and transparent probe into the case, he said, “Here today I commit that we will answer every one of these false charges openly and transparently…. Radhika (Roy) and I, and NDTV have never touched one rupee of black money. We have never bribed one person in our lives.”
Nariman said, “The FIR filed by the CBI is definitely an unjustified attack on press and media freedom…. CBI lodged the FIR not on the basis of any discovery of its own but only and solely on the basis of information supplied by one individual, Sanjay Dutt.” Dutt is a former consultant with NDTV.
Saying Prime Minister Narendra Modi had brought journalists together, Shourie had a couplet for him. “He who was occupying this throne before you, he also had a similar belief that he was God.” He added, “It is very sad we have not reacted the way we should to the choking of the RTI…. News is what the government wants to hide…. Don’t become instruments of distracting your readers and viewers.”
Alleging that “there is no minister here, the government is of two-and-a-half men”, Shourie said, “Instead of buying peace with concession, I would urge non-cooperation.”
Gupta said that organisational and institutional affiliations should be forgone in order to counter the “assault on the free press”. Asking journalists not to be intimated by the “storm of abuse”, he said, “Our job is to speak the truth to power. Too many of us have become megaphones for power.”
The News Broadcasters Association (NBA), an industry body of television news channels, also expressed concern about the CBI raids on the NDTV founders.
Condemning “any attempt to muzzle the media”, the NBA in a statement said it “maintains that no individual or institution is above the law”. Such a move, it said, “undermines the basic tenets of free speech enshrined in the Constitution of India.”
The NBA added that it “hopes” the CBI ensures a fair investigation and not “venture into concerted harassment” of the Roys and NDTV. NDTV is a member of the NBA.