Media freedom is the bedrock of India's democracy. Over the years, our free Press has braved many a grim challenge and has been a torch-bearer of values that define media standards. The freezing of the accounts of the Sakshi media Group by the CBI on Tuesday is a brazen attempt to gag the Media, It is also a clear move to muzzle and stifle the voice of of the most popular News paper and television channel in Telugu.The Sakshi newspaper published in Telugu has a Total Readership of 1.42 cores (Data as per IRS 2011 Q4 ) and the television channel has a viewership of over 2 crores.You would be shocked to know that the very next day GO RT No 2097 d 9.5.2012 was issued by General Administration Department by which it puts on hold GO MS No 226 GM (I and PR) Dt 24.4.2008.
This GO withholds advertisements and notifications from being released to Sakshi Newspaper and Indira Television.The act of taking steps towards stopping the release of Government advertsements to the Sakshi Media Group were reported in Deccan Chronicle on the 30th of April and information about this GO being drafted much ahead of the CBI order freezing the accounts of Sakshi clearly indicates a conspiracy.The very magnitude of this manipulative agenda is shocking and shameful.We know that we will overcome this challenge mindful of the support of millions of people who are with the Sakshi and truth will triumph in the end.
..This assault on Press freedom must stop now. Every signature must be made to count, every voice heard, if freedom of the Press as enshrined in our Constitution has to survive. Sign now.
H.E. The President of India
New Delhi 100001
Sub: Witch-hunt and attempt to gag the Press in Andhra Pradesh.
We write this letter to you with the highest regard towards the parliamentary democracy and as firm believers of value-based public life.
Sakshi Media House, which publishes a Telugu daily and runs a television channel, has been a benchmark in value-based journalism and objective reporting of events as and when they unfold. The Media Group is based in Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh.
Sakshi gained tremendous popularity and widespread public support within a short period of time and the statement can be vouched by the Audit Bureau of Circulations (ABC) figures and authenticated television ratings of Target Rating Points (TRP). Sakshi newspaper has a total readership of 1.42 cores (data as per IRS 2011 Q4) and the television channel has a viewership of over 2 crores. Some vested interests and competitors might have felt threatened, perceived or otherwise.
On May 8, 2012, the CBI had issued notices freezing the bank accounts of the Sakshi media group and this clearly politically motivated move has evoked a huge public outcry. The newspaper has nearly 20,000 employees and the CBI move to freeze the current account affects their livelihood directly. It is an unmistakable attempt by the CBI to try to unlawfully strangulate the Sakshi group financially.
There were dharnas and rallies all over the state and Journalist Unions have given a protest call on May 10. The CBI action was condemned by luminaries of Journalism, intelligentsia and people from other walks of life.
We thought we should bring the highhandedness of CBI to the notice of the First Citizen, as we believe that some vested interests have been trying to close Sakshi Media House to clear the ground for the monopoly of another media house.
To give you a brief backdrop of the developments, the CBI had filed a charge sheet against Kadapa Lok Sabha member YS Jagan Mohan Reddy (son of former Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister, Dr YS Rajasekhar Reddy) questioning the investments that were made in the Sakshi media house vis-à-vis 26 GOs issued by the State Government.
The matter is pending with a CBI special court.
Earlier, the Supreme Court had issued notices to the ministers concerned and senior bureaucrats of Andhra Pradesh Government who were responsible for issuing the 26 GOs after the CBI failed to question them. While serious doubts are being raised about the course and direction in which the CBI investigation is being steered, circumstantial evidence clearly shows that the inquiry has been pointedly selective. The exclusive stories of happenings in the CBI office appeared in a section of press on many occasions but surprisingly CBI did not issue any rejoinder nor did it deny the charges.
The CBI special court has also issued summons to YS Jagan Mohan Reddy to appear before May 28 only a couple of days back. The Kadapa MP, who floated YSR Congress Party after severing links with Congress, is busy in electioneering for the June 12 by-polls.
Even as the case is progressing in the court, CBI has issued notices to freeze the bank accounts of Sakshi Media group, evoking strong reactions from the journalist fraternity across the State.
The case of 26 GOs being heard by the CBI special court notwithstanding, we feel that the move on the part of the CBI to freeze the bank accounts of the Sakshi media house is a brazen assault on Press freedom driven by political motives.
Our fears were not unfounded as the brazenness by which the State Government has issued a GO holding back the advertisements. The GO RT No 2097 dated 9.5.2012 was issued by General Administration Department Government of Andhra Pradesh by which it puts on hold GO MS No 226 GM (I and PR) dated 24.4.2008.
The new GO withholds advertisements and notifications from being released to Sakshi Newspaper and Indira Television. The act of taking steps towards stopping the release of Government advertisements to the Sakshi Media Group were reported by a Regional English Daily ,Deccan Chronicle on April 30 nine days ahead of the actual issuance of the GO.
The information about this GO being drafted much ahead of the CBI order freezing the accounts of Sakshi clearly strengthsens the conspiracy angle. The very magnitude of this manipulative agenda is shocking and shameful.
Public organisations have moved the Human Rights Organisations and Journalists have held dharnas and submitted memorandums to the Governor at the State Capital and to the administrative heads at all district headquarters on May 10th.All associations of journalists and other political entities in Hyderabad and in the National space have decried these actions.
Going by the sheer scale of the public outcry against the CBI's attempt to suppress media freedom and the spontaneous response from all sections of people across the State, the CBI move must be reversed forthwith, if democratic values are to be protected and press freedom safeguarded.