Congress leaders unite to slam Modi over Doordarshan interview

Congress leaders unite to slam Modi over Doordarshan interview

 The row over Narendra Modi's Doordarshan interview escalated on Saturday, with the BJP prime ministerial candidate ruing the decline in freedom of the public broadcaster and speaking about the “horrors” the media had to experience during Emergency.

With Modi choosing the occasion of World Press Freedom Day to prick the Congress on the controversy over the editing and delayed transmission of his interview, opponents hit back: Union Minister Kapil Sibal said “Modi” stands for “Model of Dividing India”, while his Cabinet colleague Beni Prasad Verma called him a "monster".

Amidst a war over Doordarshan editing out portions of his interview last Sunday, Modi tweeted, “On such days as this, I feel very sad to see our national TV channel struggling to maintain its professional freedom.”
Emphasising that free press is democracy's cornerstone and must be preserved in letter and spirit, Modi invoked memories of the Emergency, declared during the Indira Gandhi regime in mid-1970s, saying, “We have witnessed the horrors of Emergency, when freedom of press and freedom of expression were suppressed. It is a blot on our democracy.”

Following the controversy, Prasar Bharati CEO Jawhar Sircar had, in a letter to the board of the organisation, rued “political interference” in and “lack of credibility” of DD News, and slammed Information and Broadcasting Minister Manish Tewari for lack of autonomy.
Tewari defended himself saying, “My attention has been drawn to the news reports which have appeared in a section of the media with regard to Prasar Bharati. I had stated earlier and allow the media to underscore and reiterate that the autonomy of Prasar Bharati is guaranteed by an Act of Parliament.”

He also said, “Prasar Bharati is a board-run organisation and the ministry has an arm’s-length relationship with it. In fact, on the question of autonomy, when I took over as I&B minister in October 2012, it was the then ministry secretary Uday Kumar Verma's initiative that the Sam Pitroda committee was constituted,” he said.

Congress leader Rashid Alvi said it is not such a big issue as was sought to be made out by the BJP. “The telecasting of an interview, its duration and other matters relate to editorial freedom of the media,” he said.

BJP leader Venkaiah Naidu said Prasar Bharati has become the Congress “Prachar Bharati” (propaganda tool).

Attacking Modi, Kapil Sibal said the BJP leader was playing the “communal card” to garner votes, and accused him of lowering political discourse. “He is aiming to be prime minister, but even a municipal councillor would know better about the use of language and maintaining dignity,” added Sibal.

Verma, on his part, stoked another controversy in Uttar Pradesh's Gonda, saying a person like Modi is an “enemy” of the country and democracy. “A person, who discriminates between Hindus and Muslims in this country and creates hatred between them is not a human being but a monster,” said the Congress leader, addressing an election rally on Friday night.
DH News Service

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