Congress today alleged that asking NDTV India to go off-air for a day is a message to the entire media to “either play ball or get shot” and accused the I&B Minister of indulging in chicanery by hiding behind recommendations of a committee.
“This is unfortunately the Indian media getting encountered,” Congress spokesperson Manish Tewari said, alleging that there are people in the ruling dispensation “who have been past masters at alleged fake encounters”.
He cautioned the media outlets that they may face a similar fate if they do not protest now.
“What you are seeing happening to NDTV is not only a message to NDTV. It is a wider message to the entire media that either get co-opted or get shot….to either play ball or get shot.
“For the Information & Broadcasting Minister to hide behind the recommendations of the inter-ministerial committee is nothing short of chicanery,” Tewari said.
He said Ministers are supposed to see things in a “wider perspective” and in the perspective of the state guarding media people and preserving the freedom of speech and expression.
“So therefore, what has happened to NDTV today if it is not resisted by the Indian media will unfortunately happen to all of you time and again. Please take this as a caution,” he told the media.
Tewari said governments in the past have had difficulties with media coverage and so did UPA during 26/11 terror attacks.
“But that does not mean you should shoot the messenger,” he said.
Attacking the BJP leadership, the Congress leader said, “You are seeing the media version of fake encounters play themselves out. You have people in the ruling dispensation who have been past masters at alleged fake encounters. And this is unfortunately the Indian media getting encountered.”
He said at the time when he was the I&B Minister in UPA, there had been recommendations by the Inter-Ministerial Committee to take a particular English channel off air for their coverage of the Muzaffarnagar riots. “But, I did not agree,” he said.
Tewari also said that in the run up to 2014 election, Congress had repeatedly warned and cautioned both the media and the wider liberal world that “God forbid if there is a BJP government at the Centre, the spectre of fascism will hang very low and liberal and creative spaces in this country would be squeezed”.