On Monday, the premises of Prannoy Roy and Radhika Roy, founders of NDTV group, were raided by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on complaints of alleged bank fraud. The case relates to a purported bank loan default of Rs 48 crore taken from ICICI bank. According to the FIR filed, the loan defaulted by Prannoy Roy is for a company named RRPR holdings private limited.
Shortly after the raids began, NDTV released a statement saying, “NDTV and its promoters will fight tirelessly against this witch-hunt by multiple agencies. We will not succumb to these attempts to blatantly undermine democracy and free speech in India. We have one message to those who are trying to destroy the institutions of India and everything it stands for: we will fight for our country and overcome these forces.”
However, Union Information and Broadcasting Minister Venkaiah Naidu rubbished allegations of an infringement on press freedom saying the raids did not happen at the offices of the news channel. “The CBI has not entered the premises of the newsroom or TV studio or any other related offices of the media channel. The management and promoters have to stand scrutiny and answer to the people instead of blocking it and then making allegations,” Naidu said on the sidelines of a function in New Delhi.
The raids, while kicking up a range of reactions on social media, attracted the attention of the foreign press.
The New York Times
The newspaper, headquartered in New York, reported on the CBI raid and the intricacies of the case that has dogged the Roys. The newspaper said NDTV has had run-ins with the Narendra Modi government over its news coverage.
“Last year, the government imposed an unusual one-day ban on NDTV’s Hindi channel, on the grounds that it had disclosed sensitive information in its reporting on an insurgent attack on an Indian air base. The channel protested, saying that its reporting went no further than any other channel’s and that it was entirely based on official briefings,” the NYT article said.
The Washington Post
The Post, apart from reporting on the raids, cited the World Press Freedom Index on which India was ranked 136th in stating that journalists are often coerced or silenced for their dissenting views.
It also quoted Prannoy Roy saying, “In American media, it is considered patriotic to question and make the government accountable, here to be patriotic is to just agree with everything the government says.”
The Post also mentioned about NDTV anchor Nidhi Razdan’s on-air verbal spat with BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra. “Days before the raid, NDTV news anchor Nidhi Razdan had sparred with the BJP’s national spokesman Sambit Patra on air and asked him to leave her show for his accusation that NDTV had an agenda,” it said.
The British newspaper said the NDTV network was ”one of the few liberal-leaning voices in a media landscape increasingly dominated by stridently nationalist and strongly opinionated outlets such as Times Now and the recently launched Republic TV.”
It quoted Sevanti Ninan, the editor of media watchdog portal The Hoot, saying, “They try to be pretty critical and objective…NDTV are not fawning over the [Narendra] Modi government like many of the other networks.”
The BBC also reported on the CBI raids and spoke to Indian editors expressing concern over searches being carried out at premises of founders of a leading television news channel.
“This is not the first time the government and NDTV have been at loggerheads. Last year the information and broadcasting ministry banned NDTV India, the network’s Hindi channel, for a day on the grounds that it had aired sensitive information about a key military operation,” the BBC article said.