"Wearer of suits worth Rs 9 lakh, Initiator of Swachha Bharat Abhiyaan... now who could that be? If a name whose initials are the same as the 13th and 14th letter of the alphabet, referring to the 15th chief executive of the Indian government, since 1947 pops into your heads, then hold that thought. Or else, expect the IB.
Not the Intelligence Bureau, but the desk-borne, more verbose, Information and Broadcasting Ministry which recently sent a note, threatening suspension, to Gujarat-based television channel Gujarat Samachar TV.
To commemorate Mahatma Gandhi's death anniversary, the channel hosted a panel discussion that--among other things--noted that those who sought to glorify Nathuram Godse by building temples were doing a disservice to Gandhi's memory. Very journalistic and within the ambit of constitutionally-sanctioned free speech even by the I&B's standards, but somebody on the panel then referred to a 'prominent political leader' that immediately drew censure from the information mandarins and prompted a show-cause notice to the channel on the 2nd of February.
The show-cause notice, which was exclusively accessed by the Economic Times, is replete with the I&B's castigation of GSTV, though, with no direct reference made to the leader in question.
"...the channel says this leader initiated the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, but does he actually believe in Gandhian ideology or is he just using his name to earn respect".
Comparing the lifestyle of Mahatma Gandhi and the leader, the channel states that "Gandhiji always lived a simple life, whereas he wears a suit worth Rs 9 lakh and moves in expensive cars".
The I&B notice further adds:
"The channel questions an individual who is a political leader by saying that he praises Mahatma Gandhi in several forums but doesn't take any stern action against those glorifying Godse."
"It has been observed that such comments aired by the channel in the said programme are not only bound to sully the image of the individual but may also potentially incite violent tendencies which may not be conducive to law and order situation."
"While the channel has every right to question the conduct of a political leader, the way it has criticised him in the news item seems a deliberate attempt to malign his reputation which is repugnant of the esteemed office he holds."
The panelists took no names and so, keeping with the spirit of bureaucratese, the I&B too didn't deem it fit to name.
The channel however faces possible suspension and Gujarat Samachar co-owner and GSTV Director Shreyans Shah confirmed to ET the channel has received the show-cause notice. He defended the channel's right to free speech and sought to emphasise the programme's context, of giving Gandhi's values short shrift by eulogizing Godse, in which it was set.
Firstpost reports that this is only one among a series of instances of news channels being upbraided for ‘maligning’ political leaders. Tamil news channel Sathiyam TV was pulled up for appearing to “malign and slander the Prime Minister which was repugnant to the esteemed office that he holds,' as was Telugu channel TV9 that was issued a notice for targeting the chief minister of Telangana.