Taking note of senior journalists from two electronic media channels resigning, as well as frequent instances of broadcast signals being blocked for showcasing content critical of the government‘s dispensation, the Editors’ Guild of India publicly denounced ‘all attempts’ on part of the government ‘to interfere’ with the independence of the media.
The Editors’ Guild Of India is an umbrella body of media organisations.
“The past few days have seen senior journalists of at least two electronic media channels come out in the open to assert that their employers attempted to either tailor or tone down their content to make it less critical of the government.”, said the Guild.
In a statement, it demanded suitable action against those responsible for ‘nefarious activities’ aimed at ‘throttling’ the freedom of the press. It also urged media outlets not to ‘cow down’ to political pressures being put on them by the government or any other forces.
Demanding that the government take note of these disruptions, the Guild also asked for an investigation and explanation relating to the circumstances under which these ‘egregious violations’ are taking place.
“Such attempts strike at the root of media freedom and the foundations of India’s democracy”, said the Guild. “The government must assure the nation, either directly or through proxies or agencies, that it isn’t involved in this activity. And if it is, it must be brought to book. Freedom of airwaves cannot be tampered with.”, it added.
One TV channel is said to have shared screen-shots with the guild, which details indicating such interferences.
The Editors’ Guild highlighted instances, in its statement, where signals of television programs critical of the government were seemingly blocked or disrupted in a manner that is almost ‘Orwellian‘. “These undermine the right to be informed and to hold the establishment responsible. This seems as a brazen attempt to punish ‘unfriendly’ news channels and silence inconvenient voices.”, the statement furthered.
It decried the the tendency on part of the government, and the political class in general, to use ‘selective denial of journalistic access’ as a weapon.
In reminding the media owners, it said that ‘the institutional strength and respect is directly linked to editorial independence, and undermining the former can result in curtailing the latter’. It also asserted that owners and journalists have an equally shared interest in press freedoms and in resisting pressures.
In a similar instance, the Guild publicly denounced the ‘cease and desist’ notice served by a large corporate group on some newspapers in an effort to block the coverage of an important defence deal.