NEW DELHI, June 28 - The Centre has come under fire from the Opposition, which has decried the NDA government�s alleged attempt at trying to gag the media by stopping government advertisements to media houses which are seen as critical of the administration.
Raising the issue, leader of the Congress in Lok Sabha Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury described it as a serious matter, while Mohua Moitra attacked the government and wanted to know if certain media houses were excluded from government advertisements.
�The undemocratic and megalomaniac style of stopping government advertisement is a message to media from this government to toe its line. Rafale deal was engulfed in controversies, favouritism and corruption � The Hindu newspaper exposed it; the Times of India exposed the violation of Model Code of Conduct by the Prime Minister; The Telegraph and the ABP were critical of the Prime Minister. This is a democratic country and the freedom of expression and freedom of press are so important that everybody must stand up to protect these basic rights,� Chowdhury said.
�Media is being gagged, all advertisements are being stopped. Their fault is that they have been raising voices against the government, which is not a crime,� Chowdhury alleged.
It may be noted here that the Central Government�s Directorate of Advertising and Visual Publicity (DAVP) has stopped issuing advertisement to The Assam Tribune since February allegedly on �instructions from higher ups�. When this newspaper tried to ascertain the reasons for stopping all DAVP advertisements, it has been learnt that the stand taken by this newspaper on the controversial Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016 (CAB) led the NDA government to take such a step against the newspaper. Officials, when contacted, expressed their helplessness and said that it was a political issue and should be sorted out at political level.
Meanwhile, Mahua Moitra, who represents Krishnanagar Lok Sabha seat in West Bengal, raising the issue during Zero Hour on Thursday said: �We want to know as to what is the break-up of the advt-spend via media houses and if certain print media are being excluded. This is very important,� she said.
�In December, 2018, the then Minister for Information and Broadcasting Rajyavardhan Rathore said on the Floor of the House that the government, from the year 2014 till December, 2018, had spent approximately Rs 5,246 crore on advertising.
�This was only the Central government�s expenditure. It does not include public sector undertaking expenditure, which, I believe, forms the bulk of it. Given that this is the tax payers� money and what the PSUs are spending is also tax payers� money, we need to have a better idea what the total advertising spending is.
�You can see, in 2014-15, it was Rs 979 crore, which went up to about Rs 1,300 crore in 2017-18. Five of the largest news media organisations in this country are either owned or indirectly debted to one person. He is the richest Indian. He is an associate who is on the board of the largest telecom venture. News Nation, India TV, News 24, Network 18, are all owned by�,� she said without naming anyone.