Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal (photo: Twitter)
The Delhi government has begun monitoring news channels – for the first time ever – following Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal’s rant against the media.
After accusing TV channels of being part of a “conspiracy to finish off AAP”, Kejriwal has asked officials to monitor the content broadcast by them.
According to the Indian Express, the Directorate of Information and Publicity (DIP) will now monitor news channels from 9 to 11 PM, and send a daily report to the Chief Minister’s Office.
“Officials have been asked to do this work for at least one month and thereafter, government will float tenders to hire designated staff to keep close tab on all the news channels,” sources told the Indian Express.
Kejriwal had, in a recent interview to a news portal, accused the media of attacking his Aam Aadmi Party (AAP).
“A very large section of the media has accepted ‘supari’ (contract) for finishing off AAP,” he alleged in his sharpest attack yet on journalists.
AAP has been in the news for the past few weeks for all the wrong reasons: the alleged suicide of a farmer at its rally and claims that the Delhi law minister faked his law degree.
Kejriwal’s response: end the negative messages by targeting the messenger. "There is a need for a public trial of the media to expose their bias," Kejriwal warned.
“There can be a public trial. There can be 8-10 spots in Delhi where we can collect a group of people and show the erroneous clips. That way we can start a ‘janta ka trial’,” he added.
The chief minister’s comments have been ridiculed by the Opposition.
Ex-I&B minister and Congress leader Manish Tewari said, "As long as the media kept singing paens of the Aam Aadmi Party, they were very virtuous. The moment they started critiques, they have become a devil for Mr Kejriwal and his party.”
“Therefore, Mr Kejriwal should, once and for all, decide whether the media is an angel or a demon and he should not change his stand depending upon the coverage of the day, of his party and the government," Tewari added.
BJP spokesperson and Press Council of India member Meenakshi Lekhi said: "Just as Delhi's voters are wondering who they have voted for, I am sure the media is also wondering who they have promoted. Those who live by the media will be exposed by the media."
Meanwhile, the Delhi government is reportedly looking into the tax records and wage details of news organisations. According to the Economic Times, labour inspectors have already visited news organisations to get details.
The administration is clearly setting the stage for attacking the media by stealth. If a direct ban is not possible, then it may well use other weapons in its armoury, such as harassing news organizations over tax claims or infringements of labour laws.
This may seem strange for someone who won an election demanding transparency, but Kejriwal appears intent on crushing dissent, both inside his party and outside.