BJP prime ministerial nominee Narendra Modi has greeted journalists across the country on the occasion of World Press Freedom Day, but has also touched a raw nerve after questioning the levels of autonomy experienced by the state broadcaster in the backdrop of the controversy over Modi’s recent interview.
“Greetings to journalist friends on World Press Freedom Day. Free press is a democracy’s cornerstone & must be preserved in letter & spirit. On days such as this, I feel very sad to see our National TV channel struggling to maintain its professional freedom. We have witnessed the horrors of Emergency when freedom of press & freedom of expression were suppressed. It is a blot on our democracy,” wrote Modi in separate tweets on his official twitter handle today.
Prasar Bharati CEO, Jawhar Sircar, too chose the same moment to rue over the “shadow” of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting affecting the functioning of Doordarshan despite autonomy granted to it by the Prasar Bharati act. Sircar wrote a letter to the Prasar Bharati board yesterday in which he accepted that the Modi interview was “apparently edited.” He has also said that the Prasar Bharati board had a great opportunity in the recent times to have gotten much needed more autonomy it had been seeking by convincing a young minister – that is Manish Tewari, in the seat. Result is that the “traditional linkage between the ministry and the news division continues unabated.
Sircar apparently wanted to release the interview immediately, but on the intervention by the board, the interview was edited, some comments on persons, Priyanka Gandhi, Ahmed Patel and views on pink revolution – cow slaughter were omitted, to make it more “balanced”. The DD has also tried to obtain an interview immediately from the other side – of Rahul Gandhi from Congress to balance the issues, but failed.
Director General of News, DD Mr. Khan has also replied on the incident and declared that there was no outside influence on the issue. The anchor, Ashok Shrivastav, who interviewed Modi has also expressed “frustration” over the interview getting delayed due to vetting by the upper level authorities.
Some commentators are accusing Sircar to favoring BJP as the party is widely believed to be forming government next by speaking openly about this issue. Sircar had slammed the particular criticism too.