BJP compares action with Emergency
The opposition alliance INDIA on Thursday announced that it will boycott shows of 14 television anchors on several platforms, a decision the BJP compared with the Emergency. The News Broadcasters & Digital Association (NBDA) said the boycott sets a dangerous precedent and goes against the ethos of democracy.
The media committee of the bloc took the decision to boycott the programmes of these journalists and not send their representatives on debates hosted by them on such channels or platforms.
“Pursuant to the decision taken by INDIA Coordination Committee in its meeting on September 13, 2023, the INDIA parties will not send their representatives on the shows and events of the following anchors,” a statement from the media committee of the opposition bloc said while listing the names of such journalists. Justifying the action, Congress spokesperson Pawan Khera, who is a part of the committee of opposition parties that took the decision in their virtual meeting, said some channels have put up a “nafrat ka bazaar” (market for hatred) for the last nine years.
The INDIA parties have decided not to legitimise this “hate-filled narrative” which is corroding our society, he noted.
“That was the idea behind this decision,” he said, adding that the opposition bloc does not want to be a party to any such action which adds hatred in society. “We are not opposed to any of the anchors, but we do not want to be a party to such endeavours,” Khera said, adding that they can create memes or target their leaders but will not create such an atmosphere.
“We will not be customers in this market of this hate,” he asserted.
“We have taken this decision and issued this list with a heavy heart. We hope these anchors will do some introspection and take some corrective measures,” the Congress leader also said.
Union minister Hardeep Puri compared the move to the Emergency that curbed media rights.
“The only instance we have seen of civil liberties being curtailed in India was during the Emergency in 1975,” he said in a post on X. Union Information and Broadcasting Minister Anurag Thakur also hit out at the opposition bloc, saying this move shows their desperation. Addressing a public meeting in Rajasthan’s Bhilwara, he said, “Everyday, the leaders of Congress and their allies say they will destroy Sanatan Dharma and leave no stone unturned to insult Hindus. Now they have even started boycotting journalists and are filing cases. Be it in Chennai or Bengal, they are filing cases out of desperation and panic, and at the same time they are saying that they will eradicate Sanatan Dharma.” BJP’s IT department head Amit Malviya also took to X to say, “So I.N.D.I Alliance has released a list of journalists, who refused to even bend, when the Opposition expected them to crawl. They should wear it as a badge of honour. More power to them…”
The AAP also shared the list of journalists and the statement issued by the INDIA media committee on its X handle using the hashtag “#JudegaBharatJeetegaIndia”.
The News Broadcasters & Digital Association (NBDA) expressed anguish and concern over the decision, saying it sets a dangerous precedent. The boycott goes against the ethos of democracy, the association said.
“It betokens intolerance and imperils press freedom. The opposition alliance claims to be the champion of pluralism and a free press, but its decision betrays callous disregard for democracy’s most fundamental tenet – the inalienable right to openly express ideas and opinions.
“The boycott of certain journalists/anchors takes the nation back to the Emergency era, when the press was gagged, and independent opinions and voices were crushed,” the NBDA said, urging the opposition alliance to withdraw its decision that amounts to browbeating journalists and stifling freedom of speech and expression.
Meanwhile, the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) termed the boycott an attack on democracy.
The NUJ took strong exception to the INDIA parties’ boycott of some journalists and condemned the same, alleging that the opposition parties have politicised the media.
The president of National Union of Journalists linked to the International Federation of Journalists, Ras Bihari, said in a statement that this decision of the opposition parties is a “black chapter” of repression on the media in India’s democratic history.
“This is totally wrong and unacceptable,” he said, adding that this reflects the lack of democratic values in these parties.
“The opposition alliance of 26 parties has shamed democracy through this action of boycott,” he said, adding that they are conspiring to weaken the fourth pillar of democracy.
PDP president Mehbooba Mufti’s daughter and media advisor Iltija Mufti said the decision to boycott the anchors was long overdue.
“INDIA alliance’s decision to boycott godi media anchors who only spew vitriol was long overdue. Their venomous shows have put the masses on a slow drip of bigotry by demonising minorities,” she posted on X.