March 29th, 2012
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Freedom of press threatened in Bengal

bengal-papersKolkatta: Bengal is the state that has seen great reformers such as Raja Ram Mohan Roy who was a staunch supporter of a free and independent press and had waged a continuous war for breaking the shackles that the government bound to enslave the media. West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s decision to ban all but eight newspapers from Government-run libraries makes one wonder whether we are moving back in times and recreating faint traces of the emergency period.

The Chief Ministers decision has invited wrath and flak from various quarters. Various political parties have demanded “immediate withdrawal of the draconian order” issued by State Libraries Minister Abdul Karim Chowdhury. Mr Chowdhury however said, “There is no question of withdrawing the order as I have only implemented the Government policy keeping greater public interest in mind.” He held an hour-long meeting with the Chief Minister and when asked as to whether he had her sanction, Chowdhury added, “I spoke with her and she okayed the order.” Among the dailies mentioned thus are Sambad Pratidin, Sanmarg, Akhbare Mushriq, Ek Din, Sakal Bela, Khabar 365 Din, Anand Bazaar Patrika, The Telegraph, Aajkal, Bartaman, Times of India, Hindustan Times and The Hindu.

The circular sent to all 2,400-odd Government libraries of the State read: “It is felt that the newspapers/dailies, as named in the table, will — besides promoting language, particularly among the rural masses — significantly contribute to development and spread of free thinking among the members.”It also insisted the Government would not release funds for any other newspaper purchased apart from the ones mentioned.

“This is a blatant attempt to muzzle the voice of media which is even worse than what we saw during the Emergency,” said CPI(M) leader Sitaram Yechury.


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