As Information and Broadcasting Minister M Venkaiah Naidu argued that the one-day ban on NDTV India was in the interest of the “country’s security”, the Opposition said the government’s proposed move would lead to “a second Emergency”.
Janata Dal (United) president and Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar said in a statement in Patna: “The central government’s decision to ban NDTV India is condemnable. The decision tantamounts to controlling the freedom of media. It is necessary to have a free and impartial media in a country like India.”
The Centre’s decision was an “insult to right to free speech”, he said. In Lucknow, Kumar’s senior party colleague Sharad Yadav said the government’s action recalled the days of the Emergency, when the media was gagged. “I want to advise all BJP men to be cautious. You have attacked media and this will be taken seriously,” Yadav said.
Also in Lucknow, Bahujan Samaj Party leader Mayawati told a news conference: “If the central government continues with such activities, it will lead to a second Emergency.” Former minister and Congress spokesperson Manish Tewari said, “It is a message to the entire media of the country that either you work according to our views or we would not allow you to run.” India, Tewari said, had more than 892 TV channels, 1 lakh magazines, over 200 community radio stations and over 300 FM stations in the private space. “What has happened to NDTV may happen to you tomorrow.”
In Chennai, DMK president M Karunanidhi said the government’s action was reminiscent of the Emergency, when his articles in the party mouthpiece, Murasoli, were banned. “The Prime Minister must intervene and come forward to give a guarantee that there will be no threat to freedom of expression. Else, the accusation across the country that the BJP government is implementing authoritarianism under the garb of democracy will be construed as true,” he said.
The CPI (M) politburo said in a statement: “This is a brazen attack on media freedom and an attempt to gag freedom of expression. It reveals the increasingly authoritarian attitude of the Modi government. The CPI (M) demands an immediate withdrawal of the ban order and an assurance from the government that such arbitrary actions will not be undertaken in the future.”
RJD president Lalu Prasad said in Lucknow that the government action was “an attack on democracy”, and that “Narendra Modi, the BJP and the RSS are taking the country towards dictatorship”. “The country”, Lalu said, “has been facing an Emergency-like situation”.