The CPI(M) today launched a veiled attack on the Centre after the CBI carried out searches at NDTV founder Prannoy Roy’s residence, saying “harassment” of media houses is “not acceptable”.
Taking to Twitter, CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury said freedom of the press is an inviolable principle of democracy and also added that law must prevail.
“Freedom of press is an inviolable principle of our democracy. Law must prevail but harassment of media houses is not acceptable (sic),” Yechury tweeted without naming the Centre or the CBI.
The central agency earlier in the day registered a case against Roy, his wife Radhika and RRPR Holdings for allegedly causing losses of Rs 48 crore to ICICI Bank.
The private news channel later termed the move as a “witch-hunt” based on “false accusations”.
Meanwhile, the Congress too criticised the move. Senior Congress spokesperson Ajay Maken said the Congress strongly condemned the action and warned the Central government that it should not try to hound the media.
“It is a strong attack on the freedom of the press and the Congress party strongly condemns it. We warn the central government that it should not try to hound and threaten the media,” he said.
“We are standing with the media. If the need arises, we will use democratic means to oppose this action,” he said, adding that the prime minister has used derogatory words like “bazaaru” and a Union minister had branded the media as “presstitutes”.
The CBI on Monday had carried out searches at the residence of Roy for allegedly concealing a share transaction from the SEBI and causing a loss to a private bank, a move termed by the channel as a “witch-hunt” based on “same old” false accusations. The CBI has registered a case against RRPR Holding pvt limited, Pranoy Roy, his wife Radhika and unidentified officials of ICICI Bank of criminal conspiracy, cheating and corruption.
RRPR Holdings had allegedly taken a loan of Rs 500 crore from India Bulls Private Limited to purchase 20 per cent shares of NDTV from the public.
The CBI has alleged that RRPR Holdings took a loan of Rs 375 crore at the rate of 19 per cent per annum from ICICI Bank to repay the borrowing from India Bulls.
Incidentally, the raids took place barely days after a prominent journalist of the channel, Nidhi Razdan, had asked one of the BJP’s top spokespersons, Sambit Patra, to leave the show after he alleged NDTV was spreading misinformation through agenda.
It’s, however, not clear if the raids were linked to the perceived insult meted out to the saffron party spokesperson.
There has been a history of the Centre’s Narendra Modi government not being visibly pleased with the channel. Last year, the Modi government had imposed one-day ban on the media group’s Hindi channel, NDTV India for allegedly flouting rules during the coverage of Pathankot terror attack.
However, the government had later postponed its decision in the wake of public condemnation.