New Delhi: The Press Club of India organised a meet to protest the CBI raids on NDTV and the attack on freedom of press. From veteran journalists like Arun Shouri and Kuldeep Nayar to esteemed jurists such as Fali Nariman came down against the government’s excesses.
NDTV co-founder Prannoy Roy began the speech, in which be both affirmed his innocence and alleged that politicians can make it seem that there is ‘smoke without fire’.
“I really hate doing this. My arm was twisted by my boss. I have the same boss at home and at work. We are here today because of these gentlemen. We grow in their shadow,” Prannoy Roy, co-founder, NDTV, said referring to the luminaries in presence.
“This is not just a flimsy case against NDTV. It is a signal to all of us: we can suppress you even if you haven’t done anything. Free press is the best thing about India. Their message is: crawl, or we’ll come for you. I say: Stand up and they’ll never do. We are not fighting the agencies. They are institutions of India. But it is the politicians,” he clarified.
“Our fight is also not against Sanjay Dutt. He is also a tool and a person being used. Sanjay Dutt’s mother is a wonderful human being. She called five of us together, including Sanjay. She said, ‘Beta, these are good people. You have made a mistake. Fix your mistake. When I pray, I pray more for them than for you’,” Roy added.
“Please don’t believe there cannot be smoke without fire. Politicians can make smoke without fire. I am ashamed of our politicians that we can make such allegations (GE money laundering).We will answer to all charges. We only request for a time-bound charges,” he said.
“In three years, the government has requested for 21 adjournments. I commit to you here Radhika, I, NDTV have never touched one rupee of black money have never bribed any official.I want to say we will die knowing we have never touched black money and most importantly we will live happily ever after,” Roy asserted at the end of his speech.
Senior Journalist Rajdeep Sardesai said, “I believe in the present atmosphere, silence is not an option. This a moment when we have to be on the right side of history.”
HK Dua, Former Rajya Sabha Member, stated, “Last time, most of the press community did not stand up. They crawled, as Advani famously said. Then came the defamation bill. We got together, it became a national movement. Rajiv Gandhi sought talks but we refused. The unity of the press won the battle. The bill had to be withdrawn as the people were against. Similar signs are visible now. Unless we are united, we can meet the same fate This is a wake-up call, we have to be vigilant and cautious of such attacks.”
“Freedom after speech is what freedom of speech is all about. No one is immune from being prosecuted under a criminal offence, but the manner, circumstances give me reason to believe all of this is unjustified attack on press and media freedom,” Senior jurist Fali Nariman opined.
“Whenever there is a majoritarian government, there is this tendency. We must resist it,” he added.
Aroon Purie, Editor-in-Chief, India Today Group, joined in stating that he strongly believed that the “freedom of the media is inviolable in a democracy.”
Veteran journalist Kuldip Nayar, having witnessed the Emergency firsthand, said, “During the Emergency, nobody had to tell anybody what to do. Everybody knew what to do. Indian Express became the symbol at the time. Today, when we are facing more or less the same situation – not that extent – all of us have to ensure we don’t allow any body to muzzle free speech.”
Arun Shourie, a former minister in the Atal Behari Vajpayee-led NDA government, stated, “I must express deep gratitude to Narendra Modi. He has brought so many friends together. I have a couplet for him: He who was occupying this throne before you. He also had a similar belief that he was God. First they used incentives like ads, then a subterranean atmosphere of fear. Now, they are using a third instrument of overt pressure. They have made NDTV an example of that. This will intensify in the coming months because of the nature of the regime – its genes are totalitarian.”