No press freedom in Bihar says Katju

By: | Updated: 25 Feb 2012 12:16 AM

Patna: Press
Council of India chairman Justice Markandey Katju said on Friday that the
Nitish Kumar-led Bihar government harassed the media if they wrote against

Katju said the information he had gathered about the media in
Bihar was "not good". He reminded the Nitish Kumar government that its
alleged action against the press was a violation of the Constitution. A
three-member PCI team will be sent to Bihar soon for an investigation, he

Katju's statement during an interaction at the Senate Hall
of Patna University sparked instant protest by the principal of Patna
College, Lalkeshwar Prasad, who left in a huff. It caused disruption in
the programme for some time. After the departure of Prasad, Katju said: "I
am a thoroughly democratic person. If anybody doesn't agree to whatever I
say ... they should not try to disturb ... don't pick up a fight with a
man from Allahabad. I know how to set things right."

At the start
of the interaction, he said: "I have heard that the present government
established better law and order in Bihar compared to the erstwhile rule
of Lalu Prasad. "The second thing I have heard is that there was freedom
of the press during Lalu's rule ... but press doesn't enjoy freedom at

"The information I have gathered about the media in
Bihar is not good ... whatever is happening here is not good," he added.
Katju said: "Whatever I have heard or come across I am narrating here ...
I have not yet established my opinion at this stage fully ... but whatever
information I have gathered on the basis of it I can at least say that I
will get it inquired into."

He said that if any reporter wrote
anything against the government, ministers or officials in the state,
pressure was built on the owner and the management of the media house for
removing him from service or to transfer him to small towns. On Wednesday,
Katju had issued show-cause notice to the Maharashtra chief minister and
threatened to recommend dismissal of the state government to the President
over attacks on journalists in the state.

"I have been told that
people don't muster courage to write against the Bihar government or its
officials," Katju said, adding that any attack by the state government on
the freedom of press was a violation of Section 19 of the Constitution.
"The Constitution is being violated by such people and they don't want the
Constitution to function.

"You are a government, but you are not
above the Constitution ... you are below it," he added. Reciting a couplet
of Kabir, Katju said "nindak apka mitra hai, woh aapki kamiyon ko batata
hai, woh aapka dushman nahin hai (A critic is your friend as he points out
your flaws. He is not your enemy)." I will give a similar suggestion to
the Bihar government and it should adhere to it," he said.

former Supreme Court judge said that if any newspaper or magazine wrote
against anybody it should not be treated as bad and should not be made
into a prestige issue. The freedom of the press was necessary for
upholding democracy, he said, adding any government should take it
otherwise if the press criticized it.

Katju said that whenever
the PCI received complaints, they were probed as had recently happened in
Madhya Pradesh. The PCI sent a team to inquire into the killing of the
entire family of Chandrika Rai. "Previously we sent a team to Maharashtra
to probe decade-old cases related to attack on over 800 reporters
following complaints received," he said.

Katju also referred to
the case related to alleged assault on four reporters by police in Kashmir
and said he had written to the chief minister that it would not be
tolerated. "I have also sent similar letters to CMs of Chhatisgarh and
Uttar Pradesh following complaints," he said.

Stating that the
media and intellectuals should follow what their colleagues did in Europe,
he said the media and intellectuals should attack communalism and
superstition to promote scientific thought. When students and teachers
raised questions about paid news, he replied that an MLA of UP had been
held guilty of such a complaint and the EC had cancelled his membership
following a letter written to it by the PCI.

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First Published: 25 Feb 2012 12:16 AM
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