Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Immediately drop charges against TV networks, India’s democracy deserves no less: NYT to Modi

By Our Representative
In yet another scathing editorial, the influential American daily 'New York Times' (August 17) has again accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi of severely undermining freedom of expression. The top daily says, "Since his election in May 2014, Modi has trumpeted India’s open society and vibrant democracy when he speaks to foreign heads of state and business leaders. But, at home, his government is seeking to restrict freedom of expression."
Especially referring to "recent attempts to limit access to the Internet and the freedom of Indian television networks to report the news", the daily, whose editorial board has written the editorial, recalls how August 1, "Modi’s government abruptly ordered Internet service providers to block 857 pornography sites".
Then, it adds, "on August 7, the government threatened to revoke the licenses of three Indian television networks, accusing them of having 'cast aspersions on the integrity' of India’s judicial system, specifically India’s Supreme Court, by showing interviews during news broadcasts that criticized the recent execution of Yakub Memon, hanged last month for bombings in Mumbai in 1993 that killed 257 people."
"Public outcry has since forced Modi’s government to back down on the Internet pornography ban, which contravened the Supreme Court. In July, the court declined a request to block the same 857 pornography sites, saying Indian adults have a fundamental right to watch pornography in the privacy of their own homes", the daily notes.
As for the three television networks whose licenses the government has threatened to revoke, the daily says they have "flatly denied breaking any laws and vigorously asserted their right to present dissenting views."
It adds, "Indian media and press associations have also reacted strongly, asserting in a joint statement that it is 'shameful that cable TV rules have been invoked to question the right of the media to air views or do stories that run contrary to the decisions of the government and the Supreme Court'.”
"The willingness of Modi’s government to exploit the vaguely worded rules of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting — which licenses and regulates Indian cable television networks — to punish stations for airing views it does not like, shows how vulnerable India’s broadcast media are to government censorship", the daily says.
"Those rules should be amended and Modi’s government should immediately drop its charges against the networks. India’s democracy deserves no less", the daily concludes.

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