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When democratic courtesies are shown the door

Kerala witnessed a very undemocratic scene on Monday. Governor Arif Mohammad Khan sent away journalists who came to report the press conference after taking prior permission as per the notification from Raj Bhavan. Not that the press conference was cancelled; the news crew of Kairali and MediaOne channels were specifically named and expelled. The reason given for their expulsion was that those media houses were campaigning against him. Jai Hind TV's news team was not even allowed to enter the hall despite their request for entry. This is a childish act and justification unbecoming of a person with so much political experience like Arif Mohammad Khan. More than that, it undermines the prestige of the position he holds as Governor. Everyone has been watching the Governor's interventions in Kerala politics for some time now. People are discussing the right and wrong in it, its unnaturalness and the underlying Sangh Parivar interests. Everyone realizes that Khan's actions are of a piece with those of the Central government using the Governor's office in other states. He may think that what he is doing is right and transparent. But it cannot be insisted that everyone agree with it.

It is the duty and responsibility of the media to question what is deemed wrong or improper. As a media organization, we have viewed the Governor's decision to withdraw the 'pleasure' to the ministers who criticized him and his request to the Chief Minister for firing the finance minister who raised a criticism, as ridiculous. It has been pointed out that world-renowned historian Prof. Irfan Habib was called a 'thug' on account of personal and political animus, and it was completely rude. It is not only the Governor but the Central and state governments, the prime minister, the chief minister and the opposition that get continually subjected to severe review and criticism by the media. No one should be offended or intolerant because of it, we are strengthened by the right given by the constitution of our country to hold and express our own free opinion. Unfortunately, the Governor is trying to take away that right which allows for dissent, criticism and correction. Such prohibition and discrimination, which belongs only to totalitarian-fascist regimes, is not only unfamiliar to Kerala but also insulting to democratic India.

This is a country that was once ruled by a prime minister who enjoyed laughing with cartoons criticizing him. Even if the Governor who criticizes press organizations as cadre media feels resentful or banish our representative in the next presser because of this, we want to make one thing clear - our job is not to launch a news bulletin that sings praises for all the positions of the government or any other authorities; our calling is not embedded journalism. As an independent media house, the duty and responsibility we have are towards the people of the country and the constitution. Questions will be asked, and criticisms will be made on necessary occasions again, and we will fight to preserve the right for it. The most dangerous time in a democracy is when the media is silenced. That should not be allowed to happen.

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TAGS:KeralagovernorArif Mohammad Khanpress conferenceMediaOne Kairaliexpelling journalists
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