Govts exert pressure on media through advertising influence or use of state machinery: Subhash Chandra

Chandra put the onus of decreasing press freedom in India not only on the ‘governing class’ but also on media publications for letting it happen

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Subhash Chandra

Subhash Chandra

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New Delhi: Zee Media chairman emeritus Subhash Chandra said on Monday that despite various challenges, Zed Media remains committed to delivering unbiased and credible news focused on the public interest.

“Governments exert pressure on media through advertising influence or the use of state machinery to threaten so that the press can be prevented from publishing factual information,"  said Chandra at a press conference on June 3, 2024. 

Chandra put the onus of decreasing press freedom in India not only on the ‘governing class’ but also on media publications for letting it happen.

To affirm his point, he mentioned an incident of media subjugation where the Aam Aadmi Party spokesperson threatened Zee News with ‘consequences’ because the editorial team decided not to telecast the full interview of Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal that he gave to Zee News.

Providing a reason for the editorial decision, Chandra said, “My editor told me that there are some objectionable comments by Kejriwal that should not and cannot go on air. They were of a personal nature.”

“What consequences? was the question on my mind.” Thereafter, mentioning the ‘consequences’ Chandra said, “The Government of Punjab forced a blackout across the state, leveraging the monopoly of a particular Multiple System Operator (MSO). The blackout was forced, not only for Zee News but also for Zee PHH and Zee Delhi NCR.”

“The state government also extended the blackout of Zee Entertainment channels,” he added. Moreover, AAP withdrew all the spokespersons from participating in debates held by Zee Media’s news channels.

Chandra highlighted how other media houses did not support Zee News during these tough times. “I can say that unfortunately, in other news media, people did not participate in this struggle. Tomorrow it could be somebody else, not Zee,” said Chandra.

As Chandra perceives it, the media acts as a "feedback mechanism," and "if feedback is suppressed, it's more loss to the governors than the governed, is my belief."

Urging all stakeholders, including viewers and regulatory bodies, to recognise and stand against these threats to press freedom, Chandra also lamented against the "governing class," which includes politics, bureaucracy, corporations, and others with money and muscle.

At the same time, he took a shot at media houses that have accepted political pressure as part and parcel of their business. “Many of the news channels, newspapers, social media, and digital platforms have started accepting the pressure as part of life, instead of resisting or voicing out their disagreement. This is one reason why India ranks 159th out of 180 in terms of press freedom,” said Chandra when asked about why India ranks 159th in the Press Freedom Index.

Reinstating the importance of press freedom, Chandra concluded his message by coaxing the media fraternity as a whole to welcome the new government. “What we all did in the Pune post case and there are many other cases, we have to do the same way. We have to welcome the new government tomorrow or the day after tomorrow, all together as a fraternity, not as individuals. You will not be harmed. If you are not together, yes, it will be a problem,” he said.

Subhash Chandra