CHANDIGARH, August 23: Congress Deputy Leader in the Lok Sabha and former Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh today condemned the authoritarian and intolerant tendencies of the Akali-BJP government towards the media.
“Right from the day this government took over, it has resorted to gagging the freedom of the press”, he said in a statement issued here today, while warning that “this is a pernicious proclivity which must not only be condemned but resisted at all costs by everybody in the interest of our democratic freedom”.
The former Chief Minister observed, abusing their power, the Akalis started with preventing the broadcast of certain television channels which they thought were inconveniently critical towards them. “So much so there are several news channels which are not beamed in Punjab through the cable network, which is in direct control of the Akalis, the Badals in particular”, he remarked, adding, this clearly posed threat to the freedom of the press.
He pointed out, recently the government slapped a defamation case against a leading newspaper, just because it found its reporting critical of its handling the Dina Nagar terror attack. “This is a democracy that guarantees the freedom of press and not a dictatorship you are trying to turn it into”, he specifically told the Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Badal, who heads the state’s home ministry that controls the police.
Capt Amarinder said, other leading national and regional dailies were denied the government advertisements as they refused to fall in line with what the Akalis wanted them to do. “Let me remind you that India is a democracy and our constitution grants and guarantees us freedom of expression”, he told the Akalis while warning them, “curtailing and hindering the freedom of press is a criminal offence and people of Punjab will hold you accountable and answerable for all these offences”.
The former Chief Minister maintained that dissent and difference of opinion is the hallmark of a free and democratic country like India. “But unfortunately our current rulers in Punjab are selectively trying to misuse the same freedom to curtail and curb the freedom of press which is not only dictatorial but a dangerous tendency that can harm our democratic traditions”, he warned.