Binding freedom of speech unacceptable: Manish Tewari
Commenting on the blacking out of two news channels in Uttar Pradesh, a few days after Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav openly attacked the media for its "negative coverage of Saifai Mahotsav," Union Minister of Information and Broadcasting Manish Tewari on Tuesday said that he would definitely take action if he received a complaint from the management of the news channels.
"I think it is extremely unwarranted, and if any channel had been cut off; the management should complain against it and we would take action," said Tewari.
"It is extremely uncalled for. The government cannot bind freedom of speech. Politicians have had differences with the media, but such decisions are not acceptable," he said.
On Saturday, two news channels - Times Now and India News - were unplugged by cable operators in Uttar Pradesh.
There was no official word on what led to the blacking out of the channels, but a few cable operators confessed that they were acting on informal government orders, according to reports.
The UP government has been under severe attack from the media for holding a grand and expensive carnival at Saifai, at a time when thousands of riot-affected poor people have been suffering in Muzaffarnagar.
They were also severely criticized by riot victims of Muzaffarnagar.
Hafiz Mohammad Parvez, a riot victim, had said: "We can see how nicely our chief minister is spending the time, in leisure, air conditioned rooms, and here, people are living in a bad shape. It seems that we had voted for him so that he could ruin us. Today, he doesn't even have the time to visit the camps to see how his people are living here, what we need. They just say one thing, that vacate the area, but how can we when the people who murdered our brothers are still roaming around out in the open, no action was taken against those people."
A distressed woman living in the camps, Nafeesa, said she had lost her child due to biting cold wave conditions, while many other children had fallen sick due to unhygienic surroundings and lack of food supplies.
When asked whether the money politicians spent on going abroad on tours could have been used to help the riot victims, she said: "Yes, we would have had a little relief. They are doing things for themselves only, they have not done anything for us, and we were and still are in a lot of problems here. We have little children, some are sick also; some are getting fever, pneumonia. Our tents get wet with dew which keeps dripping the whole night. Children fall sick because of that."
Another riot victim, Tahir, said: "Till date the government has not sent any help for us, they sent us one glass of milk for 24 hours. Families, which have 10 children, how are they going to manage with one glass of milk? We have left out houses and come here, and the people who had killed people, walked free after a few days, they are roaming around free. How can we go back in such a case? Wouldn't we feel scared? They say the law will punish them but where is it happening? Why would we go back to get killed?"
The ruling Samajwadi Party (SP) organizes the "Saifai Mahotsav" every year in the ancestral village of party chief, Mulayam Singh Yadav, to commemorate the memory of his deceased nephew.
Several Bollywood actors including Salman Khan and Ranveer Singh performed at the event and seemed delighted with the arrangements made for them.
The grand finale ceremony of the 15th annual festival, which began on December 26, was inaugurated by Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav.
(Posted on 14-01-2014)