March 19, 2023

Caution: Saffronisation of Doordarshan and All India Radio

THE National Alliance of Journalists (NAJ) and the Delhi Union of Journalists, in a joint statement on March 16, have expressed serious concern at the virtual capture of India’s Prasar Bharati, which runs both the Doordarshan and All India Radio, by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), through its own news agency, Hindustan Samachar. This hitherto struggling news agency Hindustan Samachar is now contracted to supply news to the national broadcasters in place of the national news agency Press Trust of India (PTI).

This move is calculated to reduce the once premier news agencies the PTI and the United News of India (UNI) to insignificance. It will saffronise news in India to suit the ruling party and kill neutral and independent journalism.  Hindustan Samachar was born in 1948 to manufacture consent in favour of the RSS ideology, which dominates in the current ruling dispensation.

Doordarshan and AIR have their own set of correspondents in the national and state capitals, assisted by a large bulk of news coverage by Press Trust of India (PTI) and United News of India (UNI), from India and abroad. However since the present government came into power the situation has drastically changed, phase by phase, with attempts to dictate terms to these news agencies. Prasar Bharti's subscription to PTI has been stopped. UNI has been deliberately neglected, its finances are in disarray and many journalists have lost their jobs while some are working for a pittance.

The joint statement said that these moves constitute yet another challenge to the secular and democratic polity. 

It may be recalled that Hindustan Samachar, a multi-lingual news agency, was founded in 1948 by Shivram Shankar Apte, a senior RSS pracharak and co-founder of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad along with RSS ideologue MS Golwalkar. Ever since the Modi government came to power, Hindustan Samachar has been a regular beneficiary of government advertisements and other forms of patronage, while earlier it was fighting for survival.

The move to give it the role of primary news supplier to the nation will further saffronise, communalise and polarise Indian society and politics. It constitutes a grave danger to political parties in opposition to the ruling party too.