Eminent jurist, Fali S Nariman, on Friday slammed the central government for the CBI raids on the premises owned by the NDTV founders, Prannoy and Radhika Roy.
Nariman, who spoke for nearly half hour, reminded the audience at Delhi Press Club, to remember the chain of events before the CBI conducted the raids.
He read verbatim the on-air verbal exchanges between the NDTV anchor Nidhi Razdan and BJP spokesperson, Sambit Patra.
As reported by Janta Ka Reporter, Razdan had demanded an apology from Patra after he accused the NDTV of having an agenda. Razdan had later asked him to leave the show and go to more ‘glorified versions of Doordarshan’-India’s public service broadcaster.
Nariman on Friday said that the CBI raids taking place just days after Patra being told to leave the show at NDTV ‘must worry all.’
“But the manner and circumstances and the so-called justification of the CBI raids give me reason to believe that all this is definitely an unjustified attack on press and media,” he said.
“We are meeting here to stop future deligitimisatioon of the media,” he said, adding similar attempts to muzzle the voices of media were made by the Indira Gandhi government.
Delhi-based journalists gathered at Press Club to protest the CBI raids against Roy.
The protest, which saw some senior journalists like Kuldeep Nayyar, Arun Shourie, H K Dua and S Nihal Singh in attendance at the lawns of the Press Club of India here, came days after the CBI conducted searches at the residence of Roy here and three other locations for allegedly causing losses to a private bank.
The NDTV had described the actions as a “witch-hunt” based on “same old” false accusations.
Former Union minister and veteran journalist Arun Shourie alleged that the government has been controlling the media through two major instruments — one by “offering bribe” through advertisements and the other by “subterranean spreading of fear”.
Shourie thanked Prime Minister Narendra Modi for getting ‘so many friends’ together in protest against the CBI raids.
He said, “Tujh se pahle jo yahan takht nasheen tha, usko bhi khud ke khuda hone kaa yaqeen tha (The one who was occupying the throne here before you too had the false notion of being a God just like you).
He warned that the government at the Centre muzzling the free speech will only intensify in time to come as, according to him, the Modi government believed in complete domination.
“Now they are using the third instrument, which is overt pressure and they have made NDTV an example of that. I believe this will intensify in the coming months,” he said.
Shourie alleged that the government would in future not only resort to managing but also suppressing the voices of dissent.
“If you (journalists) think that if you give prominence to articles of some of the ministers in newspapers or give them air time, they will help you in crisis.
“In fact, when the assault comes on you, none of them will help,” Shourie said.
He said the present government is run by “two and half men”, without elaborating whom he referred to.
“There is no minister here. The government is of two- and-a-half men,” he alleged.
“Instead of buying peace with concession, I would urge non cooperation…just boycott their (government’s) press conferences, deny them that,” Shourie said.
He told journalists to counter the lies spread by the Centre’s Narendra Modi government by informing the international media because it was one of Modi’s weaknesses.
Shourie also said that publicity was the oxygen for the ‘bhagwa labourers’ and media fraternity ought to have denied that acces to that oxygen.
Veteran journalist Kuldeep Nayyar urged journalists to rise to the occasion in this battle for independent media.
“We cannot and should not allow anybody to muzzle the voice of media. We are facing more or less the same situation as in the Emergency,” he said.
Roy, who was the last speaker, said that the Modi government was trying to suppress our freedom even when we were not doing any thing wrong.
He said that the worry was the they were out there to ‘fix you’ even when you were innocent.
They’ve accused of carrying out prostitution racket inside income tax departments.
Addressing the gathering, Roy said, “I commit here today that we will answer all the charges openly and transparently.
What all I ask is to please make it a time-bound process.” Members of the Press Club of India, the Federation of Press Clubs of India, Delhi Union of Journalists, the Press Association, the Foreign Correspondents Club, the Indian Women’s Press Corps and the Editors Guild of India were also present.
The NDTV founder, also said, their fight was not against the CBI or the ED, but against politicians, who, he alleged, want to “eviscerate these institutions”.
“Please don’t believe there cannot be smoke without fire.
Politicians can make smoke without fire,” he said.
Members of the Press Club of India, the Federation of Press Clubs of India, Delhi Union of Journalists, the Press Association, the Foreign Correspondents Club, the Indian Women’s Press Corps and the Editors Guild of India were also present.
(With additional inputs from agencies)