As the Indian nation drifts towards becoming a state obsessed with national security, the impact is being felt in all manner of affairs with a decline in levels of tolerance for freedom and access to independent news in print and other media. The recent closure of TV news channel ‘Day and Night News’ is a case in point and one that shows that the fear psychosis is being kept alive in India at every cost.
The ‘Day and Night’ news channel was reasonably well known for providing fair and thoughtful views on day to day affairs and was able to generate a constructive debate in public. The basic premise of the channel to present a balanced view was quite different to the line drawn by the ruling party governing the affairs of Punjab whose slogan ‘Raj nahin sewa’ is based on stifling divergent views which do not tow their line of thought. ‘Day and Night’ was known for being at the forefront of coming forward with news and debate concerning the basic well-being of the public and disclosing the suffocating policies of the ruling party. To an extent this was not welcomed by the governing class and over time their increasing control of the cable network in Punjab which controls 85% of all televisual access proved telling with the removal of the Day and Night news channel. The remaining 15% of service through dishes is far too costly with enormous transmitting fees and thus the news channel has become a casualty of this framework
Against all odds Managing Editor Kanwar Sandhu who has now resigned kept the station alive in recent years and is able to rightly claim credit for bringing out thoughtful insights into issues concerning the public. Regularly the channel exposed real news, worthy of broadcasting in programmes like ‘Jago Punjab’, ‘Prime Time’ and ‘Hello America’. News stories like the recent disclosures of fake encounters in Punjab by a Police Inspector during the troubled times of Sikh struggle were noteworthy. The present ruling party of Punjab was itself a key part of that Sikh struggle and before coming to power had pledged in its poll promise of 1997 that once in power it will surely unearth the truth behind the agony suffered generally in Punjab and by the Sikhs in particular. Now instead ‘Day and Night’ has paid the price of doing just that, by showing the truth.
Similarly an agonising aspect of Sikh history – the army assault on Darbar Sahib in 1984 – was thoroughly shown on the ‘Day and Night’ news channel this June in a 9-part series and generated a great interest in the public, leading even newspapers to talk about the issue. In the same way, ‘Day and Night’ highlighted the trampling of free expression when a film cleared by the Indian censor board was blocked by the Punjab state Govt and eventually this film was cleared for airing, after the channel played a lead role.
The channel was branded as an opposition channel, the tool of another political party and worse still, largely due to being in the forefront of revealing hidden truths and the brazen misuse of power. Emerging cartels with hidden or covert support of the ruling party were exposed as ‘Day and Night’ did their utmost not to bend or compromise with the powers that be. Many employees have lost their livelihood and the people of Punjab are now poorer for it, forced to hear and watch one voice and message.
In Punjab today, hope has been overshadowed by despair. In every medium, the State is censoring opposing voices. We need open debate which can bring Punjab back to its core values of dignity and liberty. We need to develop into a liberated society not a manufactured one.