The CBI has responded strongly to a New York Times editorial on the NDTV raids, calling it “one-sided” and asserting India does not require “any lesson” on freedom of the press from the US daily. In response to the June 7 editorial ‘India’s Battered Press’, the CBI’s press information officer and spokesman R K Gaur said the editorial “gives the impression” that action is not being taken against other big loan defaulters and that the raids on NDTV’s founders were a part of a “vendetta” against the broadcaster.
“The editorial is one-sided and doesn’t consider the investigation history of the case” against RRPR Holdings, NDTV’s holding company, by different tax and law enforcement agencies in India since 2011, he said. Gaur said in the entire case against the NDTV “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,” he said in his letter to the Editor, adding “our institutions and traditions are nurtured by our rich and diverse cultural heritage and democratic ethos.”
The editorial had said that even as India’s state-owned banks are holding bad debt of about USD 186 billion, the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi has “hesitated to go after big defaulters”. “But suddenly we have dramatic raids against the founders of an influential media company — years after a loan was settled to a private bank’s satisfaction,” the editorial said.
In his letter to NYT, Gaur said the Central Bureau of Investigation is currently investigating over 100 criminal cases worth a total loan default of over USD 5 billion.
“Many of the leading loan defaulters are behind bars, their assets attached, and prosecutions are being pursued vigorously in the courts,” he said. Gaur noted that ICICI bank’s loss is merely tip of the iceberg and that RRPR Holdings is also being investigated for irregularities in the mobilisation of funds used for loan repayment. He alleged there have also been serious defaults in tax payment.
To the NYT editorial’s assertion that NDTV Hindi was taken off the air for a day for reporting on a sensitive attack on an air base, Gaur said the decision was arrived at after a proper inquiry in which NDTV also participated.
“No democracy can allow the country’s security and public safety to be compromised by irresponsible reporting of terrorist incidents,” he said. The New York Times editorial board had said that press freedom in India “suffered a fresh blow” when the CBI raided homes and offices connected to founders of NDTV.
“The raids mark an alarming new level of intimidation of India’s news media under Prime Minister Narendra Modi,” the editorial had said.