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POTO will target small newspapers
By MG Staff Writer
|The new anti-terrorism ordinance has created a storm in the country and everyone including the media has expressed shock over its stringent clauses. The media has come out in the open to oppose the ordinance as it severely curbs the freedom of the press in the country.
The new terrorism ordinance imposes harsh restrictions over media activities. Media persons are liable to be punished with an imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years or with fine or both if they fail to furnish information or provide false information about a terrorist person or organization to the police. The new law also makes it mandatory upon every person to disclose to the police any information which he knows or believes to be of any use in preventing any terrorist activity as soon as ‘reasonably’ practicable. It has made journos around the country skeptical of the new ordinance.
But what is amazing is the lax reaction of some leading media houses in the country. Though some newspapers have come out and condemned the move and have taken a stand against it there are some leading newspapers that have been passive spectators in this whole affair. A few others have been quite supportive of the government’s bid to impose the law with all its clauses in place.
These newspapers probably perceive that restrictions imposed on media people are not going to affect them, given their clout in the government and their reach in higher echelon. There is every possibility that given their high influence no government can dare to touch them. The main victims are going to be smaller newspapers that do not necessarily toe the government line. There are indications that this section of the media is being aimed by the new ordinance.
Smaller newspapers are mostly independent in their approach as they are generally not financed by big business and have no interest in keeping politicians happy. The present dispensation at the centre has not been able to digest their direct and hard hitting approach over crimes being perpetrated by a section of Sangh Parivar and its sponsored troupe of hooligans who flout court rulings with impunity. It wants to get all incidents concerning minorities and sections opposed to it go unnoticed and unreported in media. Constant trickling of news regarding atrocities against Christians and Muslims in large parts of the country by such elements has given a tough time to their leadership. This in turn has been giving a bad name in the eyes of the whole world. It wants to gag those who do not listen to its dictates and had no way other than passing a ‘law’ that could help it impose a ban on such fearless people who could not be bowed down by threats.
If POTO is passed in Parliament, which still seems to be a far fetched conclusion, the government will be able to silence a large section of the media that could do some independent reporting and challenge the lawlessness in the country. Surendra Mohan, a senior commentator, recently said that the government does not want to listen to criticism on its plans of saffronization of education and country and any voice that goes against it. He added that the present government wants to gag any voice that goes against its controversial moves.
A news item that recently appeared in the Asian Age (17 November) gives a clue to what is in store for this section of media. The item from its Lucknow correspondent says that, pro-Pakistan militant outfits are using aspiring journalists to close in on their VIP targets and gain access to high security zones for possible strikes.!
The report, which fails to name a single such ‘journalist’, further states that the Intelligence Bureau is closing on such journalists in Mumbai, Delhi and Lucknow, the three ‘centres’ that have been identified as being most vulnerable to terrorist attacks particularly in the aftermath of the war in Afghanistan. The report also attributes to unnamed sources that serious restrictions are going to be imposed on small-time journalists.
This seems to be a well-planned beginning to corner journalists working in small newspapers who have been giving a tough time to the powers that be.
POTO provisions about media to go: Advani
The government would remove provisions in the Prevention of Terrorism Ordinance (POTO) affecting mediapersons, Union Home Minister LK Advani has indicated. ''We may not be able to allay the apprehensions of others on POTO but we will certainly do so fully with regard to mediapersons," Advani said.