The Telegraph
Saturday , May 3 , 2014
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On World Press Freedom Day, Modi tweets he is ‘sad’ for Doordarshan

Ahmedabad, May 3 (PTI) : Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday tweeted the “decline” in journalistic freedom in public broadcaster Doordarshan and invoked memories of the Emergency in 1975.

Modi, the Bharatiya Janata Party’s Prime Ministerial candidate, was commenting on the way Prasar Bharti, the corporation that runs DD, had edited out certain portions of his interview last Sunday and the subsequent raging controversy that it stoked by the “delayed” telecast.

”On days such as this, I feel very sad to see our national TV channel struggling to maintain its professional freedom,” Modi said on Twitter while extending his wishes to journalists on the World Press Freedom Day.

Modi did not forget to remind the people of the curbs placed on the media in the Emergency imposed by the late Indira Gandhi in 1975.

”We have witnessed the horrors of Emergency when freedom of press and freedom of expression were suppressed. It is a blot on our democracy,” Modi said in another tweet.

”Greetings to journalists friends on World Press Freedom Day. Free press is a democracy's cornerstone and must be preserved in letter and spirit,” he said.

A controversy erupted on Friday following news reports that Modi had said that Priyanka Gandhi Vadra was like his daughter, remarks that were neither appreciated by her nor by Congress leaders.

However, it turned out that Modi had not made any such description.

The other issue related to his remarks claiming closeness with Ahmed Patel, close aide of Sonia Gandhi. Patel issued a strong denial of these claims. Modi's remarks on these subjects in the interview were edited out but became public through the social media.

While Congress leader Rashid Alvi said a “big fuss” was being made of the issue, which relates to editorial freedom, while some other commentators have accused both the BJP and the Congress of misusing Doordarshan whenever opportunities came.

Reacting to the controversy, Information & Broadcasting Minister Manish Tewari said, “My attention has been drawn to the news reports which have appeared in a section of the press with regard to Prasar Bharti. I had stated earlier and allow me to underscore and reiterate that the autonomy of the Prasar Bharti is guaranteed by an act of Parliament”.

”Prasar Bharti is a board-run organisation and the I&B Ministry has an arm's length relationship with it. In fact on the question of autonomy, when I took over as the minister of I&B in October, 2012, it was on my initiative and the initiative of the then secretary in the ministry Uday Kumar Verma that the Sam Pitroda committee was constituted,” he told reporters.

Prasar Bharti CEO Jawahar Sircar had on Friday attacked Tewari on the issue of autonomy for Prasar Bharti.

He had said the ministry lost an opportunity to convince a young minister to break the long traditional linkage between the ministry and the News Division, which has continued unabated even after PB was born and assigned its distinct role in 1997.