The Press Information Bureau chastised English daily Deccan Herald for using a statement by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in a satirical feature, Newslaundry reported on Tuesday.

On May 14, Jaideep Bhatnagar, the principal director general of the Press Information Bureau, wrote to the Deccan Herald objecting to British writer CS Lewis’s quote being placed next to Modi’s statement in the newspaper’s section “Speak Out” section on May 13.

The “Speak Out” is a daily feature of that uses satire or irony to highlight recent statements by public figures by juxtaposing them with quotes from eminent personalities.

In its May 13 edition, the Deccan Herald had quoted Modi saying: “Last eight years of my service to the nation from Delhi (as PM) were dedicated to good governance and welfare of the poor.” Below this, the newspaper published Lewis’ quote: “Of all tyrannies a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive.”

The newspaper also listed some decisions taken by the Modi-led central government such as the sudden announcement of demonetisation and the nationwide coronavirus lockdown. It also mentioned examples of policy failure like the rise in fuel prices and the high levels of unemployment.

What did the PIB allege?

Bhatnagar accused the newspaper of “misleading the readers”. In his letter, he noted that while the two quotes were “surely unrelated”, the Deccan Herald had “mischievously and falsely conveyed some sort of contextual congruity”.

He added, “It has been further noticed that you have mischievously and deliberately added a list of events to give it a misleading and false narrative”.

Response from ‘Deccan Herald’

In its response to the PIB, the Deccan Herald said that the “Speak Out” section does not report factual news, but is an “irreverent take on a public figure’s statement of the day, to be regarded in the same way as a cartoonist’s art”.

The editor of the newspaper added that the list of events referred to by the PIB official made it clear that the “irreverence/opposition sought to be expressed subjectively is to specific policies and not to the person or office of the prime minister”.