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press council report compares media censorship in nitish’s bihar with emergency

patna,(bihartimes): a three-member fact-finding team of the press council of india, which probed the censorship in bihar compared the situation with emergency. perhaps it has not exaggerated, as barring a couple of newspapers, not a single daily of patna on wednesday carried news on the release of its report, in which it made a scathing indictment of the nitish kumar government. even the dailies which carried the news on the report––although small––did not give any prominence to it.

accusing the state government of “arm-twisting” press in bihar and forcing it to function as its “undeclared mouthpiece” the report compared the situation with emergency.

the team which submitted its report to pci chief markandey katju said journalists in the state are now “gagged, muted and handicapped”.
“the newspapers either avoid publication of news related to crime, ransom, land grabbing by the leaders of the ruling establishment or their supporters, murders, and the activities of the land mafia, or they are underplayed and published in brief as small news items,” it said.

“free and fair journalism in bihar is facing a situation of censorship the likes of which was seen during the emergency in our country,” it said.

“news relating to agitations, public concern do not find place in the newspapers, for they dare to raise uncomfortable questions for the government because they point fingers on the weaknesses and faults of the governance,” the report added.

it demanded that an independent agency be created to release advertisements to media strictly on basis of guidelines. the pci panel said that the entire media industry in bihar depends mainly on the state government advertisements as being an industrially backward state, it lacked private commercial ads.

levelling serious charges against the nitish government the report said it is taking advantage of its monopolistic status in handing out advertisements. “the government is ostensibly found to be using this status as a lever to arm-twist the media houses with an eye to compel newspaper house managements to willy-nilly function as its undeclared mouthpiece,” the panel said.

the fact-finding team also said that even the right to information act seemed to be ineffective in bihar as information officers allegedly do not give information to journalists and other social activists as they think that the information could be used as news.

it needs to be recalled that press council of india chairman, justice markandey katju, visited patna in february 2012. at a function in the wheeler senate hall in patna university he pulled up chief minister nitish kumar for imposing the worst form of press censorship in the state. a day later while in gaya he questioned the very claim of the development made in bihar stating that he found no sign of progress in his two day trip to bihar.

he accused the chief minister of using the media for his own end. he announced that he would constitute a fact-finding team to probe the censorship in the state as he had received information of the gagging of press from various journalists and other sources.

he constituted a three-member team, which included arun kumar of the times of india, patna edition. he is the lone member of the press council from bihar. the pci fact-finding team interviewed different journalists during its two-day hearing last april. however, the print media journalists––and many from the electronic channels too––did not turn up as they fear that they would have to pay the price as many daring mediapersons have either lost their jobs or having been shunted out from the state.

incidentally, newspapers in general blacked out katju’s february speech on censorship and the visit of fact-finding team to patna in april.

in contrast bihartimes not only reported both katju’s speech and fact-finding team’s visit it braved all odds to champion the cause of the people in democracy.

through an rti. bihartimes highlighted as to how various newspapers––some of them exist only in name––get hefty amount as advertisement to remain silent.

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