The Editors Guild of India on Wednesday demanded action against those “throttling media freedom” and condemned the “blocking or interference” in the transmission of television content that is seen to be “critical” of the government.
The statement comes days after two journalists at ABP News Network quit the organization.
A joint statement by journalist organizations also expressed deep concern over the developments in the media.
“The past few days have seen senior journalists of at least two electronic media channels come out in the open to assert that their employers attempted to either tailor or tone down their content to make it less critical of the government, leaving them no choice other than resigning,” said the Guild in the statement.
The Guild said it decries all attempts on the part of the government to “interfere” in the free and independent functioning of journalists, either by putting them under pressure directly or through the proprietors.
“Even more worrying are the recent instances where signals of television programmes critical of the government have seemingly been blocked or disrupted in a manner almost Orwellian,” it read.
The Guild demanded that the government must take note of these instances of “disruptions” in television programme signals, investigate and explain how and under what circumstances these “egregious violations” are taking place.
“Suitable action must be taken against those who were responsible for such nefarious activities aimed at throttling media freedom. It (government) must also assure the nation that either directly or through any proxies or agencies it isn’t involved in this activity.
“And if it isn’t, these saboteurs must be brought to book. Freedom of airwaves cannot be tampered with,” the statement said.
The body further said that one TV channel had also shared with the Guild screen-shots and details indicating such interferences.
“Such attempts strike at the roots of media freedom and indeed the foundations of our democracy” and it seems there is “a brazen attempt to punish unfriendly news channels and silence inconvenient voices,” the Guild said.
The Editors Guild of India said it is also “pained and agitated” to learn of the detention of Shahidul Alam, eminent photographer and educator, in Dhaka under the provisions of the Information and Communication Technology Act of Bangladesh.
The Guild called Alam’s detention “arbitrary and unreasonable” and demanded his immediate and unconditional release.
A joint statement by Indian Women’s Press Corps, Press Club Of India and Press Association said: “We express our deep concern over the most recent developments in the media, especially the electronic media which has serious implications for media independence and freedom and are indicative of a systemic erosion of such freedoms.”
“The first person account of a senior television journalist employed until last week with a leading news channel alleging interference – covert and overt – by sections within the union government has reinforced growing concerns about press freedom within the journalist fraternity.
“Journalist organizations have repeatedly flagged these concerns over the past few years,” it added.
The statement further said: “While the onus on standing by the editors and reporters lies on the owners of media companies and not succumb to any pressure, any external interference – overt or covert – by persons in government that directs the working of the media and results in altering of media content can only be inimical to the functioning of an independent media and India’s standing as a democracy.”
“Separately, the working conditions of journalists, in both print and electronic media need to be addressed from time to time,” it added.