HRDA Statement: Condemn the targetted raid on NDTV by Indian Government

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New Delhi: June 8, 2017 
Human Rights Defenders Alert – India (HRDA) strongly condemns the targeted raids on the residential and official premises of top executives of New Delhi Television (NDTV) by the Government of India. The targeted raids are part of an emerging pattern to silence any criticism or dissent in the new political climate in India that has fostered in the past few years. It poses a serious challenge to democratic space including the space for a free media that is shrinking fast. This is akin to what was experienced and witnessed during the emergency. Political parties, journalists, media houses and civil society have condemned CBI raids on NDTV and expressed concerns on the attempt to silence independent media.
On June 5, 2017, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) raided the premises of Mr. Prannoy Roy and Ms. Radhika Roy, the founder-promoters of NDTV. The search was carried out on a private complaint by a shareholder of NDTV alleging that NDTV’s founder-promoters caused a loss of Rs. 48 crores to ICICI Bank. In a statement released by CBI, it has clarified that the search was carried out based on proper ‘search warrants’.ICICI Bank in a letter in the year 2009 has stated that RRPR Private Limited, owned by NDTV’s founder-promoters, has paid the entire due amount of Rs. 3750 million. A recent report states that as of December 2016, India has a Rs. 697,409 crore rupees as non-performing assets with the banks in lieu of the loans issued by those banks. Defaulters in those cases include business houses and multinational corporations, but in none of the case any investigating agency has filed a criminal charge against the defaulters.
No one is above law of the land, but the timing of this CBI action is questionable. Few days prior to the raids on NDTV, a spokesperson representing the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was asked to either tender an apology or leave the evening news bulletin, for accusing NDTV of having an agenda against BJP. NDTV has constantly highlighted the issue of regulations on cattle trade and beef consumption. 
NDTV has faced the wrath of the government earlier last year when a one-day ban was imposed on the NDTV-India, the hindi news channel of NDTV group, by the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting on charges that it had divulged sensitive information during a terrorist attack in Pathankot, Punjab. This was an unprecedented move and had received criticisms from media houses, political parties and civil society organizations. After nationwide protests against the ban, the Ministry decided to lift its ban against NDTV-India. Meanwhile NDTV had also challenged the ban in the Supreme Court as it violates its constitutional right to freedom of speech and expression. 
The Constitution of India ensures freedom of press through freedom of speech and expression in Article 19. The Hon’ble Supreme Court of India in many cases had highlighted the freedom of press is essential in effective functioning of a democracy. Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights acknowledges “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers”.It has been reiterated in the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights to which India is a party. The United Nation’s Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression has reiterated in various reports to UN Human Rights Council on the protection of journalists and media against discrimination, threats, harassment, persecution or intimidation.
In a democracy, it is the duty of the State to abide by the constitution and ensure freedom of speech and expression including the freedom of press. The government and its agencies should ensure that no arbitrary methods are used to curtail the freedom of press including intimidation and harassment indirectly. Government needs to ensure that laws and the agencies which enforce them are not misused to target those who present real facts, engage in ethical journalism and are critical of the functioning of governmentor its policies.
HRDA stands in complete solidarity with NDTV and urges the Government of India to tender an unconditional apology to NDTV and rightly honour its commitments to the Indian Constitution, especially Article 19 (1)(a) relating to the fundamental right to free speech and expression. Government of India should honour Universal Declaration of Human Rights, abide by its commitment to the international human rights conventions and declarations and the pledges it took at the UN Human Rights Council. 
As recent as on May 4, 2017, India’s Attorney General, Mr. Mukul Rohatgi, had submitted at India’s third Universal Periodic Review in Geneva that The right to free speech and expression occupies its rightful place in the core of our Constitution. As the world’s largest multi-layered democracy, we fully recognize the importance of free speech and expression. HRDA urges the Indian Government to ensure that such esteemed submissions at international forums are reflected in its actions domestically. 
Henri Tiphagne
National Working Secretary

Mathew Jacob
National Coordinator 

For more information/clarification, please contact – 
Mathew Jacob
[email protected]
About HRDA
HRDA is a national network of human rights defenders for human rights defenders. HRDA aims to respond to the attacks, threats and harassments to human rights defenders and issues concerning violation of right to assembly, association, expression, dissent and protest. HRDA operates from New Delhi, Madurai, Bhubaneshwar, Bengaluru, Jorhat and Pune. 

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