After purported videos of Tripura Chief Minister Biplab Kumar Deb commenting against “some over-excited” newspapers who he claimd were creating confusion over the COVID-19 situation went viral on social media, his office said the speech had been taken out of context. Journalists across the state had expressed concern over the chief minister’s tone in the address made at the inaugural ceremony of Tripura’s first ever Special Economic Zone (SEZ) at Sabroom in South Tripura on Friday.
In the address, the CM said: “Some newspapers are trying to confuse people, getting all overexcited. History will not forgive them, I shall not forgive them either. History will not forgive them, people of Tripura wouldn’t forgive them and I, Biplab Deb shall not forgive them. I do whatever I say, history is testimony to that.”
Using the occassion to urge people to maintain social distancing and wear masks, the CM said earlier in the speech: “Corona can’t defeat us. We have strengthened every district hospital so that one doesn’t need to rush to Agartala”, he said. Deb also advised people to take care of elders in the family and asked them to immediately call up the health department if they face any health complications.
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Soon after, Forum for Protection of Media and Journalists, a Tripura-based media rights body, commented that journalists are feeling unsafe after the comments.
Chairperson Subal Kumar Dey said: “We weren’t this afraid even during the Emergency.” He said any contradictions of the government with the fourth pillar were earlier resolved through dialogue. “But the situation is going out of our grasp in last two years. The state is trying to reduce media to a slave. Government orders are issued to gag their voices,” said Dey, who is also editor of a vernacular daily of Tripura and president of Agartala Press Club.
“Journalists are officially defamed on social media and the Chief Minister’s Office (CMO) is involved in it. Ruling party and the government are issuing regular threats to media organisations through press conferences. Tripura CM’s threat to media organisations in a public gathering has shoved us into fear,” he added. A meeting of journalists has been convened on Sunday to discuss the CM’s statement.
Reacting to the allegations, CM Biplab Kumar Deb’s media advisor informed indianexpress.com that Deb’s comments were taken out of context and used to distort his speech and intention. “Our government is committed towards press freedom and media rights. We have tested mediapersons for COVID-19 during lockdown, allowed government vehicles for transporting newspapers to villages, granted financial assistance to newspaper hawkers among other activities to support media. But a few local newspapers are trying to work with some agenda and that’s not right”, he said.
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