Let’s have Freedom After Speech

Let’s have Freedom After Speech

Freedom of speech is under attack! Even more so, as somebody said just recently … Freedom of speech is only meaningful if there is freedom after speech. Over the past three years, we have observed carefully how difficult it is becoming to have freedom after speech.

Criticize Prime Minister Modi and his moves, question flawed policy, and there is a pack of well trained hounds lurking in the shadows waiting to tear you apart, (not just on social media): that’s the message that certain forces have been sending out consistently.

Recently India’s Central Bureau of Investigation  (CBI) raided the residence and other properties of the promoters of NDTV, Prannoy Roy and Radhika Roy.

This is undoubtedly an attack on the channel and an attempt to muzzle the independent minded journalists who will not consent to becoming puppets of the powers that be. Considering that this ‘action’ followed the incident where an NDTV anchor, in a live show, asked the BJP spokesperson, Sambit Patra  to leave the panel discussion on beef ban, where he made certain offensive statements.

This has naturally caused sharp controversy. No one is above the law but the  law should be even -handed and not arbitrary.

The Editor’s Guild has expressed deep concern over the outrage especially because Prannoy Roy is an eminent TV personality.

Entry of the police and other agencies into media offices on a flimsy pretext should attract the strongest condemnation. But the ‘shouting channels’ failed to do so. Which brings us to the question as to how many of these fellows masquerading as journalists have sold their credibility. A dog with a bone in his mouth cannot bark, after all!

How this case has been registered against the Roys, flouting all norms, will lead to disturbing questions about the way the CBI functions. The allegation is that the Roys, in cahoots with some officials of the ICICI bank were engaged in questionable financial deals a decade back. However, the complainant is  a mere shareholder of NDTV and the bank, not a government agency. Except the Roys, no one has been named in the CBI’s first information report (FIR).

The CBI is a very powerful agency and should be above suspicion. Alas! it hasn’t been called  called a caged parrot for nothing.

Governments everywhere should be prepared to face criticism from the media, however trenchant. In public, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has said that criticism from the media is the essence of democracy and can help correct the shortcomings of the government. Actions, however, speak louder than words!

If the media is gagged, it will mean that the government is not accountable to society. That will also dent the county’s global image which the PM appears so anxious to enhance.

The time has come for all alert citizens to look around them with open eyes to evaluate what we are being fed by the news channels.

Remember, students of the media: News is what the government wants to hide, all the rest is propaganda!

Editor, Newsnet One

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