Bhubaneswar: The Indian Digital Media Association (IDMA), a conglomeration of nationalist digital media portals, on Monday condemned the concerted witch-hunt which has been launched by the Odisha government against OTV for reporting alleged corruption by the Naveen Patnaik-led BJD government in the State.
In a statement, the IDMA clearly stated that any government certainly has the right to legally prosecute any individual or entity if there is proof of wrong-doing. “But the manner in which OTV is being prosecuted reeks of political ire and evident backlash for their reportage,” it said.
“The very function of the media is to report the stories for which they have evidence. If every government starts persecuting the media because they don't like the stories that are reported, the country would eventually have no media left. Freedom of the press must be held sacrosanct if democracy has to thrive in a diverse country such as India and state governments especially need to know that they are not above scrutiny,” said IDMA in detailed a statement.
IDMA calls for an end to the witch-hunt against OTV by the Odisha state government
— Indian Digital Media Association (@IndiaIDMA) November 23, 2020
The IDMA has called upon the Naveen Patnaik government to uphold the spirit of democracy, release the reporters who are now being hounded to resign from the channel while in custody and stop the persecution of OTV, its reporters and employees.
“The governments of the day must remember that even if they manage to get a channel to stop their reportage, the stories that have been reported live on. Such intimidatory tactics have certainly lost their steam in the digital age,” the statement read.
IDMA also expressed shock over the manner in which the OTV site in-charge at Sarua, Anirudhha Panda was arrested by a group of policemen at 3 AM in the morning.
On November 10, Randhir Singh, the father OTV MD, urged Union Home Minister Amit Shah to provide protection by the central government from the excesses of the police officials against his family and employees at the channel's studio in Sarua, Khordha, under the pretext of carrying out an investigation into a land issue.
“It was also reported that Ramesh Rath, senior reporter with Odisha Television (OTV), who had reported the stories of alleged corruption, was arbitrarily arrested up by a group of policemen barely a few hundred metres from his residence and was not allowed any communication, even with his family members. Well above 20 cases, including criminal cases have been filed against OTV after the reportage of the cases of alleged corruption by the Naveen Patnaik government,” the IDMA’s statement read.
“When the institutions that are meant to protect citizens become the monsters that citizens need protection from, the collective might of the populace must demand the restoration of rights,” the statement added.