The Government of Punjab has organized a two-day Conference of NRIs at Hotel J W Marriott, Sector-35, Chandigarh on January 4 & 5.While the organizers have allowed 15 select journalists of print publications to cover the event, they have allowed only PTC News from amongst TV news channels. And Day & Night News was among the channels denied access into the venue.
The question that arises is how the exclusive electronic media coverage rights of a state Government function organized with public exchequer were given only to PTC News, which is owned by Punjab’s Deputy Chief Minister Mr Sukhbir Singh Badal and his family? Punjab Minister for NRI Affairs and Public Relations, Mr Bikram Singh Majithia, is Mr Sukhbir Singh Badal’s brother-in-law.
The action of the Punjab Government, therefore, is not only highly partisan and arbitrary, and thus, illegal, it is also discriminatory and against the tenets of free speech and expression in a democracy.
Day & Night News is a registered satellite news channel which has been on air for more than two-and-a-half years. It regularly reports the activities of all state governments in north India, including Punjab, and has been covering the legislative proceedings of Punjab Assembly too.
Day & Night News has regularly faced discrimination at the hands of Punjab Government and has constantly raised its voice at appropriate forums. As such, Day & Night News has been the victim of Punjab’s cable cartel, which has denied it access to the viewers in the state, at the prompting of Shiromani Akali Dal politicians who are sitting in decision-making positions in Punjab Government.
It is relevant to mention here that Day & Night News has not been restored on Punjab’s cable network in spite of it winning a protracted legal battle against the state cable cartel’s monopoly at the Competition Commission of India, New Delhi. The CCI in its order dated July 3, 2012, imposed a penalty of Rs 8.04 Crore on the cable entities and directed them to “cease and desist from indulging in anti-competitive practices which have the effect of denial of market access.”
The denial of access to a state Government event, where significant policy decisions concerning NRIs have been announced, therefore, is a new low in the Punjab Government’s continued discriminatory attitude.
Day & Night News condemns the action of the Punjab Government and calls for uniform treatment of all media in the interest of fair play, free speech and freedom of expression for the electronic media in Punjab.