No press freedom in Nitish Kumar’s Bihar: Katju

Last Updated: Friday, February 24, 2012 - 23:56

Patna: After slamming Maharashtra Chief
Minister Prithviraj Chavan over attacks on journalists in the
state, Press Council Chairman Justice Markandey Katju on Friday
targeted the Bihar government alleging the media in this state
was harassed if it wrote against the government.

Katju said the information he had gathered about the
media in Bihar is "not good" and reminded the Nitish Kumar
government that its alleged action against the press was a
violation of the Constitution. A three-member PCI team would
be sent to Bihar soon for an investigation, he added.

Katju`s statement during an interaction session at the
Senate Hall in Patna University sparked instant protest by the
Principal of Patna College Lalkeshwar Prasad, who left in a
huff. It caused disruption in the programme for some time.

After the departure of Prasad, Katju said he was a
democratic person thoroughly "and if anybody doesn`t agree to
whatever I speak ... they should not try to disturb ... don`t
pick up a fight with a man from Allahabad. I know how to set
things right."

At the start of his interaction, he said, "I have heard
that the present government established better law and order
in Bihar compared to the erstwhile rule of Lalu Prasad.

"The second thing I have heard is that there was
freedom of the press during Lalu`s rule .... but press
doesn`t enjoy freedom at present".

"The information I have gathered about the media in
Bihar is not good ... whatever is happening here is not good,"
he added.

Katju said "whatever I have heard or come across I am
narrating here ... I have not yet established my opinion at
this stage fully ... but whatever information I have gathered
on the basis of it I can at least say that I will get it
inquired into.

He said if any reporter wrote anything against the
government, ministers or officials in the state, pressure was
built on the owner and the management of the media house for
removing him from service or to transfer him to small towns.

On Wednesday, Justice Katju had issued a showcause
notice to the Maharashtra CM and threatened to recommend
dismissal of the state government to the President over
attacks on journalists in the state.

"I have been told that people don`t muster courage to
write against the Bihar government or its officials," Katju
said, adding any attack by the state government on the freedom
of press was a violation of Section 19 of the Constitution.

"The Constitution is being violated by such people and
they don`t want the Constitution to function.

"You are a government, but you are not above the
Constitution ... you are below it," he added.

Reciting a couplet of Kabir, Katju said "nindak apka
mitra hai woh aapki kamiyon ko batata hai woh aapka dushman
nahin hai( A critic is your friend as he points out your
flaws. He is not your enemy)."I will give a similar suggestion
to the Bihar government and it should adhere to it," he said.

The former Supreme Court judge said if any newspaper or
magazine wrote against anybody it should not be treated as bad
and should not be made into a prestige issue.

The freedom of the press was necessary for upholding
democracy, he said, adding any government should take it
otherwise if the press criticised it.

Katju said whenever the PCI received complaints, it was
probed as had recently happened in Madhya Pradesh. The PCI
sent a team to to inquire into the killing of the entire
family of one Chandrika Rai.

"Previously we sent a team to Maharashtra to probe
decade-old cases related to attack on over 800 reporters
following complaints received," he said.

Katju also referred to the case related to alleged
assault on four reporters by police in Kashmir and said he had
written to the chief minister there that it would not be
tolerated.

"I have also sent similar letters to CMs of Chhatisgarh
and Uttar Pradesh following complaints," he said.

Stating that the media and intellectuals should follow
what their colleagues did in Europe, he said the media and
intellectuals should attack communalism and superstition to
promote scientific thought.

When students and teachers raised questions about paid
news, Katju replied that an MLA of UP has been held guilty of
such complaint and the EC had cancelled his membership
following a letter written to it by the PCI.

PTI



First Published: Friday, February 24, 2012 - 23:56

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