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Urgent news announcement – from the desk of Dr. Subhash Chandra

Message for the Members of Fourth Estate: From the desk of Dr. Subhash Chandra New Delhi, 3rd June 2024:

Media as the Fourth Pillar of Democracy:
Media is considered as the fourth pillar of democracy but faces increasing pressure from Governing Class, whether the legislature, executive, corporates and more. There are structured attempts by them to align the media in order to achieve their agenda. Governments exert pressure on media through advertising influence or use of state machinery to threaten so that the press can be prevented from publishing factual information.

Zee Media’s flagship channel – Zee News, recently faced an alarming incident of Governmental suppression of media’s independence. On 23rd May, 2024 an interview of Chief Minister of Delhi, Shri. Arvind Kejriwal was conducted by a senior journalist of Zee News. Post the interview, the independent editorial team at Zee Media decided not to telecast it, keeping in mind some objectionable content in the interaction. Some portions of the interview were telecasted as well but the spokesperson of Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) kept insisting that “Zee News must publish the entire interview else it will face consequences like withdrawal of advertising (which was substantial on a monthly basis) by Punjab Government at the least”. I wondered, what else will they do to penalise/prosecute our freedom.

I discovered soon that the Government of Punjab forced a black out across the state, leveraging a monopoly of a particular Multiple System Operator (MSO).

The black out was forced, not only for Zee News, but also for Zee PHH & Zee Delhi NCR. The state government also extended the blackout of Zee Entertainment channels. To add further AAP withdrew all the spokespersons from participating in debates held by Zee Media’s news channels. Unfortunately none of our fellow News networks raised any voice. Zee group neither could provide true news nor it could entertainment it’s loyal viewers of Punjab for good 8 days. Zee fought this battle independently and got the channels restored by seeking justice through a legal approach.

This is a real time and live example of political parties suppressing us as a fourth state. Today it is Zee, while tomorrow it can be any other news channel, news publication or platform.

On 3rd May 2024, which is celebrated annually as World Press Freedom Day, I released a video message, expressing my thoughts and views on freedom of press. This video went viral within a short frame of time. The media fraternity appreciated this step. Most of them were

even shocked and surprised yet noticed this bold statement of mine. As a result, my office received 54 press interview requests. Hence, I took a yet another proactive step and conducted a Media-Meet Press Conference, leading to a constructive round of conversation with the senior members of the media-fraternity.

The after effects of the viral video led to various speculations and the governing class demanded explanation. Zee Media could not only explain the reason (As mentioned above) and added that it was not directed to any particular party or person(s). Infact, this step worked in favour of the fourth estate, since Zee Media got an assurance from the system that post elections, they will work with/in the new Government and make efforts to improve the ranking of India from the current 159th position amongst 180 nations. I was told that the mentioned rating is low since two decades and the respective governments did not attend to this issue.

Unfortunately, many of the news channels, newspapers, social media and digital platforms have started accepting the pressure as part of life, instead of resisting or voicing out their disagreement. This is one reason why India ranks 159th out of 180 in terms of press freedom. The natural blame gets inclined towards the Government, but the media itself is equally responsible.

These incidences are not isolated. Various organisations/people in the governing class (political, bureaucracy, corporates and others with money-mussels) have historically employed numerous tactics to suppress media organisations, from leveraging advertising revenue to exerting pressure through corporate avenues and use of investigating agencies. Despite these challenges, Zee Media’s news channels and platforms have steadfastly upheld its credibility and commitment to public interest journalism.

I not only recognise but also take pride in the importance of a free press in a democratic society and condemn any attempts to stifle journalistic freedom. The governing class has forgotten the defeat of Mrs. Indira Gandhi post emergency era. One of the major reasons of her own team’s atrocities did not come to light or to her notice; because the same team had suppressed the media. If she knew about those horrific things, she would have never let it happen to people, hence I believe that media’s freedom is important and essential for the senior/top leadership of the Government of the day. Zee Media’s news channels and platforms will continue to focus on public interest stories, bringing crucial information to the forefront regardless of external pressures.

I would like to reinforce Zee Media’s Commitment towards strengthening the Fourth Estate: Despite these challenges, Zee Media remains committed to deliver unbiased and credible news focused on public interest.

I urge all stakeholders, including our viewers and regulatory bodies, to recognize and stand against these threats to press freedom. A free and independent media is crucial for the health of our beloved Country in terms of it’s economy, the social structure, protection of weaker people of society, reduction of corruption and finally the democracy. I and my team are ready to pay a price or face any consequences, to keep fulfilling our ‘Dharma’ towards our readers/viewers.
Zee Media has always aimed to set an example for other media organizations through its work practices and core values. Key pointers that highlight its commitment are as follows:

  • Boldly inform about the truth to the government.
  • Intensify their focus on public issues, whether or not they are seen as government criticism.
  • Utilize their nationwide network to expose any government trying to exert undue pressure, turning it into a campaign across the country, provided all of us are together.
  • Always provide training to journalists on handling pressure and maintaining integrity under duress.
  • If necessary, file lawsuits as public interest litigation for violating press freedom and seek legal remedies.

Let us be in it together. Jai Hind- Jai Bharat
Dr. Subhash Chandra
BCS Bureau

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