New Delhi: The Congress alleged that the managing editor and two anchors of a prominent news channel had to quit due to pressure from the government for airing stories critical of the Modi dispensation.
Raising the issue in the Lok Sabha, Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge also accused the government of trying to "intimidate" the media and "curbing" its freedom.
Strongly denying the charges, Information and Broadcasting Minister Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore said the government has nothing to do with the internal developments in the channel and accused the Opposition of raising the matter because it has no issues to flag in the House.
"No showcause notice was served on the channel when it was running wrong news. The government has nothing to do with it (the resignations). If the government wanted to interfere, it could have as the Free Dish (state-run satellite TV service) is in government's control," he said.
"The TRP (television rating point) of the channel is going down rapidly," Rathore said.
Though Kharge named the channel and the managing editor who resigned, Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan objected to the leader naming a private entity and its employee. According to Kharge, the managing editor with 14 years of service in the channel and the two other employees were forced to quit following government pressure after it carried out a "reality check" on a Chhattisgarh woman farmer's claim during an interaction with Prime Minister Narendra Modi that her farm income had doubled.
Days after the woman, Chandramani Kaushik from Kanker district, claimed during the interaction with the prime minister on 20 June through the NaMo App that her income had doubled, the channel aired a story in which she said she was tutored by officials.
After the story was telecast, the woman stuck to her remarks that her income had doubled as she had shifted from paddy cultivation to 'sitafal' (custard apple) farming and denied she was tutored.
"The media is being targeted for doing its duty, for carrying out reality checks on the government's claim. The media is being intimidated. The managing editor (of the channel) was told to go. Two anchors of the channel were also asked to go," the leader of the Congress in the Lok Sabha alleged.
He said after the channel ran the "reality check", the government put pressure on the channel to remove the three employees.
"The Constitution has given the right to freedom of speech and expression... Attempts are being made to suppress the media which is not good," Kharge said.
After the story was aired by the channel, Congress president Rahul Gandhi took a swipe at Modi, saying he not only tells people his Mann ki Baat but even wants to hear his Mann ki Baat from them.
"Everyone knows that the PM tells his Mann ki Baat. But today, it was known that he wants to hear only his own Mann ki Baat," Gandhi had tweeted in Hindi, referring to Modi's 'Mann ki Baat' radio address.
Updated Date: Aug 04, 2018 15:41:02 IST