Media appeared to be under pressure to show a polished version of the government’s viewpoint: Tharoor

Mumbai: Right across the spectrum, there is a ‘serious undermining’ of every autonomous institution, and it seems the government has only the “loyalty” criterion before appointing individuals to head them, said Congress leader Dr. Shashi Tharoor.

Addressing the media at the Mumbai Press Club on Saturday night, Dr. Tharoor said the media appeared to be under pressure to show a polished version of the government’s viewpoint rather than showing them the mirror, which it ought to do. He spoke, “The need for an Independent media as a vital link for Democracy.”

This section of the media claims to be independent, but it is actually betraying itself.

Tharoor said intimidation of the press was a legitimate issue, and if he had a voice in the party manifesto, he would certainly suggest that this should be made an issue, and the party would stand for guaranteeing the freedom of the press and non-interference.

The press is like a window that lets the light in, and using draconian measures such as sedition law to suppress the freedom of expression is not good for society, he said.

Society is in danger of suffocating itself if the press is not free, he pointed out and declared that a free press is the best indicator of the health of democracy.

He said in the first few months after the BJP government stormed to power in 2019, he ‘wasn’t far off’ from his prediction as the government brought legislation on triple talaq and the abolition of special provisions of Article 370.

In many ways, it was COVID-19 that saved the country as the entire legislative momentum was stalled by the urgent need to tackle the pandemic, he added.

To a question, he said he is certainly worried about the future of democracy in India.

Dr. Tharoor appreciated some of the independent websites for their courage to stand up because they do not have any business interests which could be under the government’s pressure.

Recalling that upright people such as T N Seshan and James Michael Lyngdoh were appointed to key positions such as the Chief Election Commissioner, today’s government believes in loyalty tests rather than any other capability for appointing people to top positions.

Asked for his views on the growing intolerance to media criticism among certain politicians, including those in Congress, Dr. Tharoor’s leaders must take constructive criticism in their stride. One should be able to laugh it off, he said and refused to comment on Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi’s burst of anger at a journalist during a press conference

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