The Editors Guild of India on August 8, decried “all attempts” by the government to “interfere” with the independence of the media, while taking strong note of senior journalists of two TV channels quitting.
The Guild said that there were frequent instances of broadcast signals being blocked of programmes seen to be critical of the ruling dispensation.
The Guild, an umbrella body of media organisations, in a statement, demanded suitable action against those responsible for “nefarious activities” aimed at “throttling” press freedom and urged media owners not to “cow down” to political pressure being put on them by the government or any other forces.
It demanded that the government take note of the cases of disruptions in television programme signals, investigate and explain how and under what circumstances these “egregious violations” are taking place. It said such attempts strike at the root of media freedom and the foundations of India’s democracy.
“It (government) must also assure the nation that either directly or through any proxies or agencies it isn’t involved in this activity. And if it isn’t, these saboteurs must be brought to book. Freedom of airwaves cannot be tampered with,” said the Guild.
The statement comes days after, two journalists from ABP News, Managing Editor Milind Khandekar and Punya Prasun Bajpai resigned, stirring debates on Twitter and leading Congress to allege that the government of India was interfering in the media after both journalists had carried out a story that contradicted the government’s claim.
14 years & 8 days later it’s time to move on. Today was my last day as Managing Editor @abpnewstv . Thank you for being part of my journey so far.
— Milind Khandekar (@milindkhandekar) August 1, 2018
Bajpai, in his show, Masterstroke, ran a video which showed Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi interacting with beneficiaries of various government programmes held on 20 June.
One of the participants from Chattisgarh shared that her income had doubled after she switched from cultivating paddy to growing custard apples.
However, the show reported that the woman had been told to make a false claim.
The report was picked up by Congress in a video tweet which said, “Evidence is surfacing that ABP News is seeing journalists resign and benched due to their involvement in stories criticising the Central Govt. Watch how in the age of free information, India under Modiji seems to be anything but free.”
Evidence is surfacing that ABP News is seeing journalists resign and benched due to their involvement in stories criticising the Central Govt. Watch how in the age of free information, India under Modiji seems to be anything but free. pic.twitter.com/r9L7xUL2A7
— Congress (@INCIndia) August 2, 2018
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal also tweeted, using the hashtag #FreeMediaDiedInIndia and criticising the ruling party for ‘killing’ independent media.
Uptil now, ABP news has not commented on the resignations.
Commenting on the issue the Guild also said said that one TV channel has also shared with it screen-shots and details indicating such interference. “Even more worrying are the recent instances where signals of television programmes critical of the government have seemingly been blocked or disrupted in a manner almost Orwellian,” it said.
The Guild asserted that freedom of airwaves cannot be tampered with and decried the tendency on the part of the government, and the political class in general, to use “selective denial of journalistic access” as a weapon.