Bhandari adds political colour to cable war

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By PEMA LEYDA SHANGDERPA in Gangtok
  • Published 27.01.03
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Gangtok, Jan. 27: Seizing the opportunity to lash out at the Sikkim Democratic Front, former chief minister Nar Bahadur Bhandari branded the ongoing cable war and the arrest of managing director of Sikkim Cable Television (SCTV) Kaium Ansari as the ruling party’s strategy to “muzzle the media”.

At a press conference called by Bhandari, the Sikkim Sangram Parishad chief said mass media in the state was in peril with the ruling government “systematically attacking” both print and visual media.

“This flagrantly violates the right to freedom of speech and expression guaranteed by Article 19 of the Indian Constitution,” Bhandari said.

Ansari, along with five others from SCTV, was put behind bars after being booked under the Arms Act on Saturday.

SCTV, the largest cable service provider in the capital, also runs a daily news channel. SCTV enjoyed a monopoly until Nayuma cables entered the business. Competition turned nasty last week when SCTV alleged that the rival company cut their cables in all major parts of Gangtok. In many places it took two days for the lines to be restored.

Bhandari also accused the police of supporting the Nayuma cables, run by the “kith and kin of the chief minister. SCTV staff have been on the receiving end for months now and the police are locking them up for no reason,” he alleged.

Bhandari said the attack on the media began during the last panchayat elections when “SDF hooligans” assaulted a journalist.

The increasing attack on the media shows the SDF’s intolerance towards a free, fair and independent press which is a sine qua non in a democratic society, he added.