NDTV hiding behind shield of ‘press freedom’: former editor of The Hindu

Some voices within the journalistic community have now started to question NDTV’s dubious financial dealings during the UPA period. CBI had raided residences of NDTV founder Prannoy Roy on Monday in case of a financial fraud that involves causing losses to ICICI bank, which is being touted as an “attack on press freedom” by NDTV and its supporters.

On Tuesday night, Malini Parthasarathy, a Director in the company publishing the left-leaning newspaper The Hindu who has also served as its Editor earlier, said that she did not subscribe to the view that the case against NDTV was an attack on press freedom.

She was responding to an article written by S Gurumurthy – the former associate and confidante of Indian Express founder Ramnath Goenka who is also known to have exposed misdeeds by Reliance Industries in the mid 1980s – which detailed how NDTV was involved in a serious of dubious financial dealings during 2004-09, which incidentally is also the period when Congress came back to power at centre.

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The article published in The New Indian Express showed how dozens of shell companies were formed by Pannoy Roy and his wife Radhika Roy, also a promoter in NDTV, and money transferred from one to another with unclear motives. The UPA government never asked the NDTV to disclose details of these companies, which finally caused loss to ICICI bank and helped NDTV cover its own losses.

“Media houses should be as transparently open to public scrutiny as any other business in order to retain credibility and public trust,” Malini Parthasarathy posted on Twitter, after saying that the case against NDTV did not qualify as an attack on press freedom.

As expected, she was attacked by NDTV cheerleaders and abusive trolls who tried to malign S Gurumurthy, but Malini stood her ground.

“Wouldn’t dismiss S Gurumurthy so lightly. His anti- corruption investigations have been truly exemplary and rigorous,” she told off a troll.

Her statement was countered by Times of India journalist Sagarika Ghose too – widely acknowledged as having shallow understanding of critical issues apart from indulging in spreading fake news and misinformation lately – who tried to reduce the financial wrongdoings by NDTV to a mere loan repayment issue.

To this, Malini said that NDTV should allow probe and not “retreat behind the shield of press freedom which is too weighty a concept to be invoked for personal issues”.

When one Twitter user pointed out that Malini was a victim of ‘attack on press freedom’ in 2004 when Jayalalithaa tried to arrest her, the former Editor of The Hindu said that there were no similarities between the two cases.

“Specious comparison! The arrests sought then were on the basis of a privilege motion filed for an editorial. No financial wrongdoing imputed!” she retorted.

Malini Parthasarathy is one of the rare ones from the journalistic community who has taken an objective stand on the issue. Most other journalists are preferring to go with the rhetoric of ‘press freedom’ over the facts about financial wrongdoings.

It should be noted that the rhetoric of ‘NDTV being punished for its “anti-establishment” journalism’ falls flat as there is nothing special in NDTV reporting in recent times that should trouble the government (assuming one means ‘government’ when they say ‘establishment’, which is not always the case). All that the NDTV has done “exclusively” recently are interviews of Narendra Modi’s cabinet ministers, which can’t be called “anti-establishment”.

When the government has not even bothered to punish propaganda websites run by various journalists that equate the Army chief with General Dyer of Jallianwala Bagh massacre, it is giving this government too much of credit that it will act against NDTV, which remains a favourite destination with many top BJP leaders.

Essentially, even the cheerleaders of NDTV won’t be able to point out any recent report “exclusive” by NDTV that should bother the government.

The only time NDTV was in news due to its reporting in recent past was when they allegedly put security forces at risk by giving away live information during an anti-terror operation at Pathankot last year. This irresponsible journalism by NDTV earned them a one-day token ban, which was again spun as “attack on press freedom” by NDTV and its apologists.

However, the BJP government chickened out and could not muster courage to impose even the token ban. The victory to indulge in irresponsible reporting was celebrated as victory of press freedom by NDTV and its cheerleaders back then.

Similar victory is being sought again by the channel and its cheerleaders as they claim that CBI raids are against ‘press freedom’.

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