ON Monday Central Bureau of Investigation teams raided the premises of the NDTV founder, Prannoy Roy, and his wife, Radhika Roy. We are told that the CBI has exerted itself rather strenuously because the Roys are suspected of allegedly causing a loss of Rs 48 crore to a private bank. Whether it is a case of extraordinary efficiency and energy on the part of India’s premier investigative agency or a simple exercise in intimidation and harassment, as the television channel has alleged, either way the Monday morning raids chillingly reconfirm the creeping inspector raj.
It is difficult to believe that the NDTV attracted the CBI’s attention just because the Roys are in dispute with a private bank; it is much easier to conclude that the CBI was in all probability acting as its master’s voice. Being the oldest news channel, it is not without its debilitating peculiarities and resilient strengths; it is possible it has sought to preserve its editorial voice by entertaining some dodgy financial entrepreneurs. The channel’s financial precariousness has been one of the worst kept secrets in the media world. The terms of intimidation that are now being dealt out in the NDTV case would become a working precedent. There is no doubt it is the only news channel that has refused to sign on the dotted lines; almost every other channel has quietly and cowardly readjusted its journalistic charter so as to offer least resistance to the government. Admittedly, no news organisation enjoys immunity from the law; and it is already being facilely asserted that the “law is taking its own course” in the Roys’ case.
The “law” is a very convenient instrument. A clear message is being sent to the media fraternity: resist at your own cost. The government is relying on the frictions and feuds within the media community to drown out the voices of protest. It is an irony: no government has enjoyed so much unsolicited acclaim and support from the electronic media for so long as has the Modi sarkar these years, yet it will not countenance one channel not bowing sufficiently low in deference to the powers that be. A testing time ahead for one and all.
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