“In a development that completely destroyed PM Narendra Modi’s ‘jumla‘ of “Naa Khaunga, naa Khane Doonga,” a report published by The Wire news site revealed how Modi had allowed corruption to flourish under his nose,” Congress said Monday.
The revelations in the report were shocking enough. But it was more surprising that large sections of the media blocked the news, Congress added.
The online news site The Wire had published a report on Sunday in which it had revealed numerous irregularities in the business of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Amit Shah’s son Jay Amitbhai Shah.
Congress said it is fulfilling its duty as the principal opposition party by addressing the media on the issue. Senior Congress leader Kapil Sibal demanded that the PM should order an investigation into the allegations that Shah’s firm had leveraged political connections to grow its business meteorically, and then shut shop. However, Congress complained that save for NDTV and ABP news, no major news channel covered the press conference live.
“It seems like a larger editorial call was taken across the newsrooms to not give prominence to the report alleging corruption in the government,” Congress said.
[ Also Read: Is Modi Government 100% Free from Corruption? ]
Given India’s low internet penetration, news channels not covering the news with a sense of doggedness and determination meant that large sections of the population remained unaware of the development, Congress said.
The report published by The Wire was crucial as it showed the nation how hollow the promises made by the man who promised to be “chowkidar” were. Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi tweeted on Monday wondering if Modi was a “chowkidar” or an equally guilty accomplice to the case.
On Monday, when the newspapers came out there were some more surprises in store. According to an analysis done by media critique website Newslaundry, “Among the Delhi editions of the four leading English dailies, The Times of India, The Indian Express and the Hindustan Times put the story on the front page, while The Hindu gave it a complete miss. However, the south-based paper did publish at least three stories online on October 8”.
Among the major business dailies, further, the Newslaundry article observed, “Mint ditched the story completely. Economic Times, however, reported it at the bottom of page 2. Again the headline emphasised on the BJP discrediting the story rather than elaborating on The Wire’s assertions.”
These are signs that something is amiss, Congress said. It seems highly unlikely that the outlets did not find it newsworthy enough. That leaves out only two options, one, self-censorship. Two, pressure from the government.
“In both cases, we, the Congress party, stand firmly with the media persons who are bound by compulsions untold. We express the hope that irrespective of the pressure on media houses to stick to the narrative that will help the government, there will always be efforts to bring the truth out,” Congress said.
“As for the Rs. 100-crore defamation suit filed by the BJP dispensation against The Wire for its brave journalism, we want to reiterate our faith in the judiciary,” Congress said.
The article is based on the annual reports filed with ROC and doesn’t make any allegations or imputations. With regards to defamation cases, history speaks for itself.
The Rs. 100 crore case filed against journalist Sucheta Dalal was withdrawn later on, and she was compensated. The Rs. 100 crore defamation case against journalist Maheshwer Peri did not pass muster with the courts.
Among other things, the Congress’ ‘hand symbol’ stands for an assurance– “Daro Mat” (Fear not), as stated by Mr. Gandhi at the Janvedna Sammelan earlier this year.
He said, “I want to assure those in the press. Write as much as you want about me. Neither will I intimidate you, nor will I snatch your right (to exercise freedom of Press).”
The Congress has a long tradition of being a huge umbrella organization providing support and succour to people for all religions, castes, so-called social hierarchies. Led by Mr. Gandhi, the Congress has stood behind every marginalised group with the same assurance that seeks to convey, “Fear not, the party is firmly behind you.”
To the media persons who feel stifled in the environment created in their newsrooms, we say, “Fear not. Defamation cases will not stop you when the truth is on your side. You have our full support. We will fight for your right to write,” Congress promised.
Photo courtesy: Congress