The Editors Guild of India on Wednesday, 8 August, expressed concerns over the alleged pressure exerted by the government on news organisations, days after two editors of a TV channel, ABP News, resigned.
The Guild condemned the manner in which the right to practice free and independent journalism is seen to be undermined by a “combination of forces – some media owners’ inability to withstand political covert or overt pressures from the political establishment.”
Such attempts strike at the root of media freedom and indeed the foundations of our democracy, the Editors Guild said.
Written in four points, the statement raised pertinent issues faced by the media without naming any politician or media company.
‘Disrupting News is Orwellian’
Demanding the government look into the ‘mysterious’ disruptions of TV programmes that are critical of the government, the Guild compared the situation of freedom of press to that of an Orwellian instance (a situation where government monitors every movement).
Recent instances where signals of television programmes critical of the government have seemingly been blocked or disrupted in a manner almost Orwellian. One TV channel has also shared with the Guild screen-shots and details indicating such interference.
Condemning instances in which news organisations were subjected to showcase only one side of the story and block voices critical of the government, the Guild demanded the government take actions against those who are responsible for curbing press freedom.
In part two of the release, the guild also viewed that public figures from the ‘political class’ denying especially interviews to media is not only undemocratic but also leads to one-sided coverage of the story.
“Denying this right and shunning journalists critical of you are unhealthy practices in a democracy. Unfortunately, it can also lead to one-sided coverage. This unhealthy and unfair practice must be avoided,” it said.
At the same time, the guild requested the government to preserve the essence of investigative journalism and sought the withdrawal of notices sent bybig corporate houses to media organisations.
Guild decries the “cease and desist” notice served by a large corporate group on some newspapers in an effort to block the coverage of an important Defense deal. The company should withdraw this notice.
In the final section, the guild extended support to media in neighbouring Bangladesh and demanded the release of photojournalist Shahidul Alam.
The Guild stands behind Mr Alam and demands his immediate and unconditional release from detention.
Journalists React on Twitter
Renowned journalists and commentators reacted to the Guild statement on Twitter.
Senior journalist Barkha Dutt spoke about her departure from NDTV in 2017 and the censorship she faced while working with the company.
The statement, however, received mixed reactions as many thought that the statement ironically curbed its own freedom to express, for it didn’t name anyone.