Naidu slams Rahul, defends NDTV ban

New Delhi, Nov 7 (IANS) Union Information and Broadcasting Minister M. Venkaiah Naidu on Monday hit back at Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi for his comments on curtailment of press freedom, and reminded him of the Emergency days when “democracy was taken off the air”.

“Every word Rahul said at the Congress Working Committee (CWC) meet suits the Congress itself and reminds people of what it had done… Democracy was taken off the air for 19-and-a-half months and Emergency was imposed,” the Minister told reporters here.

Defending the NDA government’s decision to impose a 24-hour ban on NDTV India news channel, Naidu said it was just a “small action” and wondered why those attacking the government for curbing freedom of the media now had kept silent during the UPA regime.

“We are all victims of Emergency. We fought for media rights. This government will never do anything to suppress the liberty of the media. This liberty that the media and the opposition enjoy was never seen in the past,” he said.

“These days, even columns are written making prediction about Prime Minister’s death. We don’t do anything and everything is tolerated.”

The Minister claimed it was the Congress and its associate parties including the BSP, Samajwadi Party and the Left – who have grown “frustrated” and are displaying “growing intolerance” against the Narendra Modi-led dispensation.

Naidu said indiscriminate criticism of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the NDA government by Congress Vice President on democracy and civil liberties would boomerang on the Congress party itself.

“They have no moral right to talk about democracy…..The Congress Vice President’s statements are laughable,” he said.

Naidu said government believes in “debate and discussions” and was thus prepared for a detailed debate on all these issues with the opposition during the ensuing winter session of Parliament beginning on November 16.

Naidu wondered why nobody spoke about democracy and freedom of media during the Congress rule when 21 news channels were banned from time to time.

“In fact, the channel named ‘Janmat’ was banned for 20 days when P.R. Dasmunsi was the Information and Broadcasting Minister,” he said.

Naidu also said the action against NDTV India was initiated by the government following the guidelines and advisories issued by the UPA government in December 2008.

“Democracy was never as vibrant as it is today,” Naidu said.

There has been a Supreme Court observation against TV channels on their agenda to push TRP ratings, he said.

He said contrary to the situation now, Emergency was imposed in 1970s “not because there was any threat to the nation”.

“Our actions (on NDTV India) are in the interest of the nation. Whereas during Emergency, all this was done just to serve the interest of one person. The country had no threat, not even the smog,” Naidu said.