New Delhi: Two leading journalists' bodies on Thursday expressed shock and concern over Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao's remarks threatening to "bury the media 10-km under the earth" if it "insults" his state.
Editors Guild of India and News Broadcasters Association issued separate statements in which they said Rao's remarks and the recent anti-media actions taken by the Telangana government were a direct attack on the freedom of expression.
In a statement, Editors Guild of India President N Ravi said the guild "views with deep concern the recent spate of anti-media actions by the Chief Minister and the Government of Telangana, reflecting an intolerance that is antithetical to the functioning of a democracy."
The guild said the complaint of breach of privilege against TV9 in the Telangana Assembly for running satirical programmes about some legislators - for which it apologised subsequently - was an indication of the intolerance.
"The latest incident relates to the Chief Minister himself attacking sections of the media which he sees as opposed to the culture of Telanagana, even going to the extent of saying that such media should be buried 10 kilometres deep.
"Even if this is a quotation from a Telugu poet, its use in the context of the media is extremely disturbing," the Editors Guild of India statement said.
The Guild appealed to the Chief Minister and Telangana government to "show a greater degree of tolerance that is required in a well ordered and strong democracy and refrain from unwarranted actions against the media".
It also called upon journalists to continue their vigorous and independent coverage of all aspects of politics, society as well as public figures in Telangana "undeterred by such shows of intolerance."
"People in public life need to be reminded of the need for tolerance and acceptance of critical scrutiny, and to respect the constitutionally mandated norms of freedom of expression as laid down by the higher judiciary," the statement said.
Describing the remarks of Telangana CM a direct attack on right to freedom of speech and expression, News Broadcasters Association (NBA) said it was shocked at the threats made.
The body, which represents leading news channels,
appealed to the Telangana Chief Minister to desist from making such inflammatory charges against the media and keep the discourse civil and sane.
NBA condemned the illegal and arbitrary actions by cable operators in switching off some of the news channels and urged the government to take cognisance of the same and take necessary action against such cable operators and individuals.
Blacking out a licensed channel is an anti democratic action that goes against the Constitutional principles of free speech, it said.
At a function on Sunday in Telangana's Warangal, Rao had reportedly said, "If anybody tries to denigrate or hurt the self-respect of Telangana, Telangana Assembly, Telangana culture... We will break their necks. Be careful. Beware or else we will bury you 10km (under the earth).
"We will not allow media to play games. If you do more, you will face more. I am telling you as the chief minister; if you want to stay here, salute us and stay. Respect our Telangana people and stay here."
The statement from Rao follows the blocking by the Association of Telangana Multiple System Operators (cable TV operators) of the transmission of TV channels ABN Andhra Jyothi and TV9 since June 16, alleging that they had aired programmes "denigrating the Telangana dialect, sentiment and hurting the feelings" of the people of the state.