Freedom of what?
The controversy over Prasar Bharti and its ‘compromised’ autonomy could not have snowballed on a worse day than 3 May –World Press Freedom Day. The political parties cutting across their ideological lines took pot-shots at the autonomous status of Prasar Bharti and its TV channel Doordarshan for editing parts of Narendra Modi’s interview. The incident also raises questions whether Prasar Bharti is actually ‘Prachar Bharti’, as termed by one politician. In a country which takes pride for being a ‘free press’ state, such incidents puts a blot on its claims. For a very long time now, Prasar Bharti has ignored the allegations of being a government machinery for spreading its propaganda. The state broadcaster must vow to curb the editorial restriction forced on it by politicians. It must bring to light any attempt towards curtailing its editorial independence on time, unlike Jawahar Sircar’s open letter to Information and Broadcasting minister Manish Tewari after the show had been aired. Had he raised this issue earlier, the problem would have been discussed, if not solved long ago. His timing of the letter is also questionable as it comes during the peak poll season. Doordarshan is one of the largest terrestrial networks in the world. Therefore, in order to validate its claims of being autonomous, it must not do government’s bidding any more, no matter who forms the next. It must, rather set a benchmark for private media houses when it comes to being an ‘independent’ news channel free from any political influence whatsoever. It must enjoy full editorial freedom. Otherwise, it will also end up becoming another ‘caged parrot’ like CBI.