Media, publishers coerced under Modi, free speech will be UPA’s top priority: Tharoor

Jaipur: Publishers, writers, filmmakers and the media are facing coercion in India under Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led BJP government at the Centre and if the UPA was to swing back to power in the coming elections, upholding free speech and democratic rights would be its top priority, Congress leader Shashi Tharoor said here on Friday.

“There have been enough instances of coercion under Modi government. We have had cases when reporters and editors have lost their jobs for doing their simple duty,” the writer-politician told reporters at a press conference on the sidelines of the Jaipur Literature Festival (JLF), before sharing a series of examples in his attempt to establish the point.

Tharoor, himself a bestselling author of over a dozen and a half books of fiction and non-fiction, maintained that the media is the fourth pillar of democracy and interfering with the working of the media shows desperation on the part of the ruling dispensation.

He said the judiciary and the state governments too have a significant role in upholding free speech in the country.

“I am, in fact, heading the Congress Party’s committee on this subject and I have been talking to publishers and writers and filmmakers. The Congress party will be fully committed… We will not tolerate burning of books, or its banning, or the hounding of writers, as we have seen in the recent past…

“If the UPA comes back to power, we will not only uphold free speech but it will be our top priority…” he said.

The JLF kicked off on Thursday and will reach its culmination on January 28.