Even as Union Information and Broadcasting Minister Manish Tewari distanced himself from allegations of the government having a hand in Doordarshan “censoring” portions of Narendra Modi’s interview, the BJP prime ministerial candidate compared the episode with restrictions during the 1975 Emergency. Modi posted on Twitter, “I feel very sad to see our national TV channel struggling to maintain its professional freedom.”
In the same vein he added that curbs on media were imposed during the Emergency in 1975 , during Indira Gandhi’s time, when freedom of expression were suppressed. “It is a blot on our democracy...Greetings to journalist friends on World Press Freedom Day. Free press is a democracy’s cornerstone and must be preserved in letter and spirit,” he said.
Tewari was forced to react after CEO of Prasar Bharati Jawhar Sircar voiced his concerns over autonomy within the public broadcaster after Modi’s interview was edited, dropping certain comments related to Priyanka Gandhi and Sonia Gandhi’s political aide Ahmed Patel.
“The autonomy of Prasar Bharti is guaranteed by an Act of Parliament. Prasar Bharati is a board run organisation and the I&B Ministry has an arm’s length relationship with Prasar Bharati,” Tewari said on Saturday. He added that it was him, who had suggested that Prasar Bharati be given more autonomy and even appointed the Sam Pitroda-led panel. “I had suggested to the Sam Pitroda committee that the relationship between the government and the Prasar Bharati should be on the lines of the relationship the Finance Ministry has with the CAG. The budget of Prasar Bharati should be appropriated through the consolidated fund of India, rather than being routed through the I&B Ministry,” Tewari said, adding the committee’s report is under the consideration of the government.
The controversy started after DD on April 26 interviewed Modi at Gandhinagar and telecast it the next day. After it was known that comments on Gandhi and Patel were edited, the BJP attacked the government for misusing Doordarshan. Sircar admitted that the interview was edited by the news division, and placed the matter before the board. The board will take a call on the issue on Monday.
DD News in a separate statement had maintained that there was no deliberate editing or omission of any portion of the interview. “Wherever editing was done was for technical reasons and during post production. There was no interference or control from any authority in the entire process,” the statement added.