The Congress on Tuesday accused Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi of “destroying press freedom” in Gujarat, while he was the chief minister of the state. Taking a swipe at Modi for tweeting about freedom of the press on World Press Freedom Day (May 3), Congress spokesperson Kapil Sibal said Modi had slapped cases of “sedition” against journalists in Gujarat, who had written against him.
Sibal said: “Given an opportunity, Modi has violated the freedom of the press both in letter and spirit. He destroys freedom of the press, whenever he gets a chance.”
Sibal said Hindi news channel Aaj Tak, which was going to telecast Tehelka’s sting operation that “exposed involvement of top BJP leaders” in communal riots of 2002, was stopped from airing the programme in 2007.
In 2006, the editor, circulation manager and a computer manager of a newspaper in Surat were arrested on charges of sedition after it published an article on the state government’s mismanagement in releasing waters from the Ukai dam, leading to flood in Surat. The editor was released after 39 days in jail after he apologised, said Sibal.
In 2004, two editors from Bhavnagar and Rajkot were charged with sedition and arrested. In another instance, a senior reporter of a national Hindi news channel was charged with sedition charges in 2003 after his report alleged that the government neglected the rehabilitation of an orphan, who had lost his parents in the 2002 riots. “In 2002, Modi called for a ban on channel Star News, which was highlighting police and state complicity in the communal violence in Gujarat,” Sibal said.
The Union minister said the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate talked about “protecting” media but “does exactly the opposite of whatever he says. He talks of freedom of press but attacks the media.”