A new low in Indian media

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By Mumtaz Alam, IndiaTomorrow.net,
New Delhi, 14 July 2014: Self-censorship or crawling even before being asked to bend down as Shashi Tharoor put it? Whatever, Indian media has slipped down in the last four months – since the run-up to the recent Lok Sabha elections. A new low was observed on 10 July when Mumbai-based English daily DNA pulled down eminent journalist Rana Ayyub’s article A new low in Indian politics critical of BJP leader and Narendra Modi’s close confidant Amit Shah within 24 hours of its publication on its website.

The article ripped through the political cloak of Amit Shah to expose his dark past – his alleged involvement in several fake encounters in Gujarat in last 10 years – and criticized both BJP and Prime Minister Narendra Modi for making Shah as president of the party, which Rana Ayyub said would only jeopardize their credibility to fight against criminal politicians.

Rana Ayyub was a senior editor at Tehelka before resigning in November 2013 in protest over lackluster handling of the sexual assault charge against its founder and editor Tarun Tejpal. For quite some time she had been writing exclusively for DNA.

Her article on Amit Shah was published on the website of DNA on 09 July but she woke up next morning only to see the piece was removed even without informing her.

Rana Ayyub was shocked. “@dna has pulled down my piece on Amit Shah ‘A new low in Indian politics’. Appalled, disillusioned at the state of journalism!”, she tweeted on her twitter handle @RanaAyyub.

“Feel terrible, disillusioned with the state of media. Will not be writing for @dna henceforth. Had great respect for them. Alas !,” she said and criticized DNA for not informing her nor giving any reasons before pulling down the article.

The step of DNA invited huge criticism on social media with netizens including senior journalists condemning the paper.

Eminent journalist Sagarika Ghose said: “You can gag us, wipe out our articles, threaten us with corporate clout, but you will NEVER silence the voice of India’s proud free press.”

Rajdeep Sardesai tweeted: “So, now some news channels have ‘censors’ sitting in their office, telling them what can/cannot be carried? Whither journalism?”

Renowned journalist Shivam Vij was also critical of the DNA act: “I like it how articles disappear from @dna without explanation. A news organisation should have the guts to stand by what it publishes.”

Former union minister and Congress leader Shashi Tharoor came down heavily on the DNA’s decision. “This is an utter disgrace…Can free speech survive in media that crawls b4 it’s asked 2 bend?” asked Tharoor.

Under attack for pulling down the article, Kunal Majumder, editor of DNA online said he had no role in the act.

In an interview with News Laundry, Majumder claimed that he was “not the one who decided what went up and what was taken down”. “I also got to know when Rana came to know”, he reportedly said.

Rana Ayyub was overwhelmed with the support.

“The overwhelming support that I have received on social media in defence of free speech has humbled me. Beauty of this democracy!,” she tweeted.

On 12 July she created her own blog http://muhaasra.blogspot.in/ and put up the piece pulled down from DNA.

Follow the writer on Twitter @MumtazAlam1978

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