In a scathing reply to criticism from The New York Times, the CBI has said that it respects press freedom.

Dont need lessons in press freedom from The Times CBI responds to editorial on NDTV raidsPrannoy Roy/Twitter
news Media Friday, June 16, 2017 - 13:46

The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has been facing flak for the raids it conducted on NDTV founder and executive co-chairperson Prannoy Roy’s residences a little over a week ago. 

Many have come down heavily on the agency alleging that the raids were an attack on India’s free press. In a scathing reply to one such instance of criticism from The New York Times, the CBI has said that it not only respects press freedom but also that it doesn’t need lessons in the same from The Times.

Shortly after the CBI’s raids, conducted allegedly for losses caused to ICICI bank, NY Times had published an editorial called India’s Battered Free Press. “The raids mark an alarming new level of intimidation of India’s news media under Prime Minister Narendra Modi,” read one of the opening lines from the editorial. It also said that to Modi’s critics, the raids formed part of “vendetta” against NDTV.

In response, RK Gaur, press information officer and CBI spokesperson, said that the editorial was “one-sided” and did not include the history of investigation against RRPR Holdings (NDTV’s holding company) by various tax and law enforcement agencies since 2011.

Gaur also claimed that ICICI bank’s loss was just the “tip of the iceberg” in RRPR Holdings’ case. The company, Gaur added, has defaulted on many tax payments and is also being probed for “irregularities in the mobilisation of funds used for loan repayment”.

The NY Times editorial said that NDTV had been defiant by being critical of the Modi government, while other media outlets’ reports have increasingly catered to “a shrill nationalism that toes the government line”. 

Implying the government’s hostility to NDTV, the editorial recalls NDTV Hindi being taken off air for a day for its reportage of the Pathankot attack, which, the government claimed, revealed “strategically sensitive details” of the government’s counter against the terrorists.

Gaur says however, that the decision was taken after a proper enquiry, of which NDTV was also a part. No democracy allows for the country’s security to be jeopardised by “irresponsible” reportage of incidents of terrorism, Gaur wrote.

Asserting that due process of law was being followed throughout, Gaur said that India’s independent judiciary was robust and always protected democratic freedom. “India does not require any lesson on freedom of the press from The Times. Our institutions and traditions are nurtured by our rich and diverse cultural heritage and democratic ethos,” he said.

The CBI had also refuted allegations of the raids being a “witch hunt”. It said that the case was registered and the raids conducted after a “complaint of a shareholder of ICICI bank and NDTV after carrying out due diligence.”

It also clarified that a loan default was not the reason behind the raids. Rather, it was the “wrongful gain of Rs 48 crore to the promoters—Dr Prannoy Roy, Smt Radhika Roy, M/s RRPR Holdings Pvt Ltd and a corresponding wrongful loss to the ICICI bank arising from their collusion and criminal conspiracy.”

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