The August 5 episode of the News 24 show Sabse Bada Sawal lasted 48.57 minutes when it was aired on TV and on the channel’s social media handles. But when it was on YouTube afterwards the episode ran into only 44:28 minutes. What was missing?
Seasoned sports journalist Chander Shekher Luthra’s criticism of the Narendra Modi government and its sports programmes. His entire section lasting 4 minutes 29 seconds had been edited out.
On the live show, Luthra, who has for Newslaundry, complained how successive sports ministers, including the incumbent Anurag Thakur, lacked vision.
“In our country, we have sports ministers such as Uma Bharti or Sunil Dutt who aren’t interested in sports. Or like Anurag Thakur who the Supreme Court had removed from BCCI,” the journalist said. “What kind of signal are you giving? You’re doing your own propaganda. Sportsmen should be given respect and jobs.”
He also spoke about how the Khelo India scheme was launched in 2017 with the promise of improving the country’s grassroots sports culture, only to do the opposite. “The Khelo India budget has come from squeezing the budgets of other sports activities,” he claimed. “Schools and college game budgets have been shut down to make Khelo India. This isn’t for sports, it is government propaganda.”
Afterwards, Luthra shared the YouTube video of the show in his circle, not knowing his segment had been cut out. He learned only when a friend called him after midnight and told him his remarks hadn’t made it into the Youtube video.
“This is censorship. I have come across things like this often but such a blatant thing has happened for the first time where they have actually censored some part of it,” Luthra, an independent journalist, told Newslaundry. In his last night, he remarked that “someone in the government” had begun censoring sports debates as well and wondered if ‘Mr Goli Maaro’, , only wanted to hear “Cheer for India”.
When Newslaundry asked the show’s host, Sandeep Chaudhary, why they had deleted Luthra’s segment on YouTube, he told us to contact the News 24 digital team and declined to speak further. We couldn’t contact Manoj Meena, the head of the channel’s digital operations. We then called the channel’s Noida headquarters, where a man who identified himself as a security guard said there was nobody around we could speak with. We also sent an email seeking comment to the channel’s editor-in-chief Anurradha Prasad. This report will be updated if we get a response.
On the show, Chaudhary spoke about the problems that India’s sportspersons face and even agreed with some of Luthra’s points. The show’s title was a rhetorical question, asking if sportspersons are remembered in this country only when they win medals. Which is why it’s surprising that News 24 deleted Luthra’s segment. The YouTube video jumps from journalist Harpal Singh Bedi talking to Chudhary winding up the show.
Luthra, who is joint secretary of the Press Club of India, told Newslaundry that he’d been blacklisted by “pro-government channels” in the past, so this isn’t the first time his criticism of the government is being stifled.