Indian jurist and President of the Bar Association of India Fali S Nariman on Friday criticised the Narendra Modi government for the Central Bureau of Investigation raids on the premises owned by NDTV founders Prannoy Roy and Radhika Roy on Monday. Speaking at the Delhi Press Club, Nariman told journalists to remember the chain of events before the CBI conducted the raids, reported NDTV. Delhi-based journalists had gathered at the Press Club to protest against the CBI raids targeting Roy.
Nariman read verbatim the on-air verbal exchanges between NDTV actor Nidhi Razdan and Bharatiya Janata Party spokesperson Sambit Patra on the debate show “Left, Right and Centre” last week. During the exchange, Razdan had demanded an apology from Patra for accusing NDTV of having an agenda. Razdan later asked Patra to leave the show and said he was welcome to go to the channels that were “glorified versions of Doordarshan”. On Friday, Nariman said that the fact that CBI raids on NDTV took place just days after Razdan asked Patra to leave the show should “worry us all”.
Totalitarian government: Arun Shourie
Later, former BJP leader and journalist Arun Shourie sardonically thanked Prime Minister Narendra Modi for getting “so many friends together” in protest against the CBI raids. “Tujh se pahle jo yahan takht nasheen tha, usko bhi tere jaise khud ke khuda hone kaa yaqeen tha [The one who was occupying the throne here before you too had the false notion of being a god just like you],” said Shourie.
Calling the Modi government totalitarian, the former minister claimed that its muzzling of free speech would only intensify over time. He told journalists to “counter the lies” spread by the Centre’s Narendra Modi government by speaking to international media. Shourie also stated that publicity was oxygen for the government, and the media fraternity ought to deny them this oxygen.
Be thick-skinned: Shekhar Gupta
Speaking at the event, journalist Shekhar Gupta blamed social media for the meekness of the media. “I think social media got us all disoriented. I have only become used to it recently,” Gupta said. “A lot of us got influenced by it. The media thought that because everybody is calling us ‘presstitutes’, there must be something wrong with us. But there are much fewer crooks in journalism than in other professions. Don’t just get intimidated by this storm of abuse.”
“When 400 cases were filed against Ramnath Goenka, he said we have broken many laws already, so how does it matter,” Gupta said. “All of you need to be thick-skinned. Please be more considerate of each other.”
Silence not an option today: Rajdeep Sardesai
Senior journalist Rajdeep Sardesai said that in the present atmosphere, silence was not an option. “This is a moment when we have to be on the right side of history”. Editor-in-Chief of India Today Aroon Purie said freedom of speech is “inviolable” in a democracy, which has been undermined by the raids. Journalist Kuldip Nayar said the situation was more or less the same as that during the Emergency, though not to the same extent.
We never bribed anybody: Prannoy Roy
Reiterating that he was innocent, NDTV founder Prannoy Roy said, “Radhika and I, and NDTV, commit to you that we have never touched black money,” he said. “We have never bribed anybody. All that we have ever purchased is in white. We will die knowing we have never bribed anybody. But most importantly, we will live happily ever after”.
Roy’s residences in New Delhi and Dehradun were raided by the CBI on Monday morning in connection with causing an alleged loss of Rs 48 crore on a loan taken from ICICI Bank. In a statement following the raids, NDTV accused the CBI of “concerted harassment” of the channel and its promoters based on the “same old endless false accusations”.
However, Union Minister Venkaiah Naidu had said there was no “witch-hunt” as alleged by the channel. “The law is taking its own course,” he said. “This government does not believe in interfering. They [CBI] must have some information, which is why they might have taken the steps.”