Three days after the Opposition INDIA coalition said that it would not send its representatives on television debate shows hosted by 14 news anchors, Congress spokesperson Pawan Khera said on Saturday that the alliance has not boycotted or banned any journalist.
“It can be called a non-cooperation movement,” Khera said during a press briefing ahead of a Congress Working Committee meeting in Hyderabad. “We will not be cooperating with anybody spreading hatred in the society.”
Khera added: “They are not our enemies...they may have their compulsions. Nothing is permanent...if tomorrow, they realise that what they were doing is not good for India, we will again start attending their shows.”
This comes after the coalition on Wednesday released a list of news anchors perceived to be close to the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party.
The bloc said that it would not send its representatives to television debates hosted by Aditi Tyagi, Aman Chopra, Amid Devgan, Anand Narasimhan, Arnab Goswami, Ashok Shrivastav, Chitra Tripathi, Gaurav Sawant, Navika Kumar, Prachi Parashar, Rubika Liaquat, Shiv Aroor, Sudhir Chaudhary and Sushant Sinha.
On Friday, Congress General Secretary KC Venugopal said that the alliance took the decision as these anchors had been engaging in “sponsored journalism” for the Narendra Modi-led government.
“Media is the protector of democracy,” Venugopal had said, according to ANI. “The role of the media is to correct the mistakes of the government. Similarly, the media used to support the Opposition to express their views. But unfortunately, some people in the media are supporting the government and destroying the face of the Opposition.”
The move invited criticism from the Bharatiya Janata Party, who accused the Congress of having an “Emergency era mindset”.
BJP chief JP Nadda said that the Congress has a “history of bullying the media” while party spokesperson Sambit Patra said that the Opposition had put out a “target list”.
The News Broadcasters and Digital Association have urged the Opposition alliance to withdraw the decision.
The association said in a statement that the decision taken by the INDIA bloc sets a dangerous precedent and goes against the ethos of democracy.
“It betokens intolerance and imperils press freedom,” it said. “The opposition alliance claims to be the champion of pluralism and a free press, but its decision betrays callous disregard for democracy’s most fundamental tenet – the inalienable right to openly express ideas and opinions.”