Boycott CNN- IBN : BJP

published on July 31, 2008

The Bharatiya Janata Party is deeply dismayed by the decision of CNN-IBN not to telecast the “notes-for-votes” sting operation, which the channel conducted with the cooperation of three BJP MPs. The whole country watched with shock and disbelief when the three MPs produced wads of currency notes on the floor of the Lok Sabha on July 22 shortly before the Trust Vote was taken. The money was paid to Shri Ashok Argal, BJP MP, at his residence by a person representing a senior Samajwadi Party leader as “advance” for the MPs to abstain from voting that afternoon. The entire episode and the background that led to that transaction, was filmed through hidden cameras by a CNN-IBN team. Subsequently, the channel interviewed all the three MPs as a prelude to the promised telecast of the tapes.

More than a week has passed since one of the most sordid events in India’s Parliamentary history was captured on camera. Now the channel says that it has not aired the tapes since the investigation is “incomplete” and has some “loose ends”. This contention flies in the face of all accepted ethics of professional journalism. The job of the media is to bring information gathered by it into the public domain. It is not for a TV channel or newspaper to complete investigations and pronounce a verdict. That job must be left to investigating agencies and the judicial process.

Only one conclusion can be drawn from the channel’s volte-face : It has come under severe pressure from the Government and/or certain corporate houses. Consequently, it has not only broken its promise to the MPs to telecast the scandalous episode immediately, but also denied the people of India their sacrosanct right to information in a matter of the highest public importance. It is now up to CNN-IBN to disprove this lingering suspicion.

The mere handling over of the tapes to the Lok Sabha Speaker, that too after a mysterious lapse of 24 hours, is not adequate. Since the entire country saw wads of notes being waved inside the House, the people have the right to know about the origin and circumstances leading to this unprecedented display. The BJP MPs acted in the highest national interest as whistle-blowers on a scandal that dwarfs all previous incidents of parliamentarians being lured with cash to vote in a particular way.

The channel’s statement dated July 29, 2008 makes it virtually clear that it has no intention of allowing the people of India to witness the shameful actions of top leaders of the ruling alliance who discarded every norm of public morality to the wind in a desperate bid to save the already tainted Manmohan Singh Government.

In the background of the sting operation’s obduracy, the BJP has been compelled to decide that it will boycott CNN-IBN and channels related to it till such time as the unedited tapes of the “notes-for-votes” scandal are telecast. Till then no BJP functionary in Delhi or in the states will appear on CNN-IBN programmes, whether in their studios or outside. The BJP believes that the channel’s decision to withhold the tapes from the public seriously compromises the freedom of the Press. The party regrets that instead of upholding the right to information, CNN-IBN has resorted to the suppression of truth.

Even at this stage, the BJP calls upon the channel to revise its decision and telecast the tapes without any further delay. The party will happily review its decision to boycott CNN-IBN as soon as the tapes are aired. The BJP, needless to add, remains deeply committed to preserve and protect the freedom of the press and is prepared to assist, in whatever way possible, media organisations to withstand Government and corporate interference in their working.

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