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Sunday, September 25, 2022

Mamata Banerjee descends into naked fascism, cracks down on unbiased media

While Mahua Moitra can’t plagiarize international posters enough to establish how Prime Minister Modi is a ‘fascist’, the TMC parliamentarian has strangely gone radio silent on the actual fascist actions taken by the state government of the political party she represents.

Known to execute strict surveillance on the content and presentation of all news channels operating within West Bengal, last week the TMC government pulled the plug on Calcutta News, the only news channel that had dared to be mildly critical of Mamata Banerjee’s tyranny. The administrative pressure to discontinue the broadcast of the news channel, that had rubbed the reigning CM and her cabinet the wrong way, was applied on all cable operators in the state.

Eminent Rajya Sabha member, articulate intellectual and native Bengali, Swapan Dasgupta, came down heavily on the Mamata Banerjee government and took to his Twitter handle to criticize this unconstitutional move to suppress freedom of expression in his home state.

That the TMC government only allows those networks to thrive in the state that broadcast sanitised news attested by the higher-up in the administration is known to the average informed resident of West Bengal. Swapan Dasgupta highlighted this to a national audience and remarked how the TMC-run government sustains itself on crude propaganda & sycophancy.

Though the cable operators were forced to halt the broadcast, subscribers of Tata Sky could enjoy uninterrupted access to the channel. Apparently, this is not an isolated incident of the state administration trying to gag independent and unbiased journalism. Last week, editor of the OpIndia digital news outlet, Nupur Sharma, was also detained by Kolkata Police and interrogated for over 12 hours at a stretch.

But there is no information on the charges levelled against the mother of a 2-year-old who was compelled to sit in the police station for so long. Understandably, it was Sharma’s Hindutva-aligned voice that the TMC is attempting to silence. That she and her organization have taken up the task of unmasking the ilk of authoritarian leaders operating under guise of secularism and progressivism, had left the masters of the state police unsettled, prompting the targeting.

Back in February this year, the apex court had to intervene when the state government went after five journalists for conducting a sting operation and exposing TMC ministers and MLAs accepting bribes.

The Supreme Court bench had stopped the West Bengal police from apprehending journalists Abhishek Singh, Hemant Chowrasia, Bhupendra Pratap Singh, Ayush Kumar Singh and Umesh Kumar Sharma in FIRs lodged by the state accusing the journalists of ‘extorting money’ from politicians by ‘blackmailing’ them using recorded footage. A segment of the footage was telecast on TV channels. Few outlets of print media also carried the news in January.

After the SC halted the arrest of the media personnel under one FIR lodged by WB Police, they registered another FIR on the same day, compelling the journalists to agin move the apex court for protection and to have the case transferred to CBI.

Representing the media personnel, senior advocates Aparajita Singh and KV Vishwanathan claimed that the police were hounding and harassing them with a sense of vengeance and the FIRs were a means of intimidation. Recognizing the dubious motives of the state police and its unabashed abuse of power, the SC bench decided to immune the journalists from arrest in all the cases arising out of the sting operation. The SC also issued notices to the state government, ministers and CBI seeking their replies on the plea to transfer the investigations.

However, Delhi’s Lutyens media which assumes to speak for the entire nation has been strangely silent on this crackdown on their media counterparts in Bengal. Neither have we heard any meaningful protest from the Editors Guild of India or the News Broadcasters Association.

With the WB state election approaching in 2021, such fascist tendencies and assuming of absolute authoritarian power by the Trinamool Congress supremo is expected to intensify manifold.

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