The Editors Guild of India decried “all attempts” by the government to “interfere” with the independence of the media, taking strong note of senior journalists of two TV channels quitting and frequent instances of broadcast signals being blocked of programmes seen to be critical of the ruling dispensation.
The Guild, 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.
The Guild, an umbrella body of media organisations, 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 strong statement comes days after the managing editor and two anchors of a prominent TV channel resigned. The Congress has alleged that they quit due to pressure from the government for airing stories critical of the Modi dispensation.
Asserting that such instances were “disconcerting”, the Guild said it decries “all attempts on the part of the government to interfere in the free and independent functioning of journalists, either put under pressure directly, or through the proprietors”.
It said the past few days have seen senior journalists of at least two electronic media channels come out in the open to assert that their employers attempted to either “tailor” or “tone down” content to make it less critical of the government, leaving them with no choice but to resign.
The Guild said at least one such instance was reported formally in writing to it.
“The Editors Guild of India condemns 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 covert or overt pressures from the political establishment and frequent instances of blocking or interference in the transmission of television content that is seen to be critical of the government,” it said.