Dhankhar seeks meeting with Press Club Kolkata to discuss move to curb press freedom
In yet another unprecedented move, Bengal governor Jagdeep Dhankhar has sought an interaction with members of the Press Club, Kolkata, to discuss the alleged curtailing of press freedom by the Mamata Banerjee-led government in the state.
“Interacting with Press Club Executive tomorrow to consider several disturbing actions @MamataOfficial compromising freedom of media and implication of journalists in criminal cases. As watchdog, Press Club at state and national level needs to ensure independence of media,” Dhankhar wrote on Twitter on Sunday.
A senior executive of the Press Club said that the governor had sought an interaction and they had agreed. “The governor seeking such an interaction is unprecedented in the history of Kolkata Press Club,” said a veteran journalist who is also an executive of the organisation.
The Press Club had not raised any such issue but the governor and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders have been alleging that the Mamata Banerjee government is threatening the media.
Dhankhar’s move comes in the wake of allegations that some cable-based local news channels went off-air – cable operators had put them off air – and a few district-based journalists booked for allegedly spreading fake news.
The governor recently sought information from the state’s chief secretary regarding the editor of a Bengali daily being summoned to the Hare Street police station. Several other journalists were also questioned by the police regarding publication of certain news. However, the respective organisations did not raise any issue or even report those interactions in their news outlets.
“Freedom of the press is inviolable. It is the spine of our democracy and promised by the Constitution,” Dhankhar wrote on Twitter on May 28.
Trinamool Congress spokespersons refused to comment. “We would rather ignore him. We would have responded if the Press Club had raised an issue,” said a senior minister of the state government.
BJP national secretary Rahul Sinha justified Dhankhar’s move. “The government is trying to keep journalists and media houses at gunpoint. Several journalists and editors were questioned. The press has been gagged in Bengal. The governor has made a laudable move,” Sinha said.