Tripura Chief Minister Manik Sarkar has alleged that state-run Doordarshan and All India Radio (AIR) refused to air his Independence Day speech on Tuesday unless he “reshaped” it. “This is thoroughly undemocratic, authoritarian and curtailment of freedom of speech,” Mr Sarkar told.
National broadcaster Prasar Bharati, which runs Doordarshan and All India Radio, reportedly sent a letter to Left-ruled Tripura that the broadcast of the Chief Minister’s speech “may not go with its existing content”, unless it was reworked to make it suitable to the occasion.
“This actually happened during the Emergency,” said Mr Sarkar, who has been Chief Minister of Tripura since 1998.
“Independence Day is a day for introspection. Every citizen has the right to review to assess to identify the areas of achievement, areas of failure and gaps and also to find out the ways and means how to overcome these gaps, this is what I have done. It may appear that the policy of central government is being criticised, so what is wrong there?” he added.
In a press statement, Tripura has alleged that Doordarshan and AIR had recorded Mr Sarkar’s speech three days before Independence Day but the letter asking for changes arrived at the Chief Minister’s office at 7 pm on Monday.
According to Mr Sarkar’s office, the letter said that the speech was “closely examined by competent authority” and because of “the sanctity of the occasion, the broadcast code and the responsibility of the public broadcaster it is not possible to telecast it in the present format…However, Doordarshan/Prasar Bharati will be happy if the chief minister agrees to reshape the content making it suitable to the solemnity of the occasion and sentiment of the people.”
The Chief Minister’s Office said that Mr Sarkar “clearly stated that he would not change a single word and described it as unprecedented, undemocratic, autocratic and intolerant step.”
CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury said Doordarshan is “not the private property” of the BJP-RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh) and accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi of “instructing his cronies to black out voices” of the opposition, including that of an elected chief minister.