Subhash Chandra’s press freedom speech: What’s cooking at Zee?

The Zee founder spoke of press freedom, a day before Zee Media CEO’s exit.

WrittenBy:NL Team
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Zee founder Subhash Chandra has said that “it’s unfortunate that India ranks 159 among 180 countries in press freedom” and that he feels similar to how he did 33 years ago when a central bureaucrat told him that he could surrender his network to the government over his “dead body”.

Chandra’s remarks come months after he wrote to the Narendra Modi government questioning market regulator SEBI’s intent behind probing an alleged case of diversion of funds. And they came a day before Zee Media CEO Abhay Ojha reportedly exited the network with immediate effect.

Meanwhile, rumours circulated on social media that Zee had banned live broadcasts of PM Narendra Modi’s speech and that this also contributed to Ojha’s exit. What added to the rumour windmill was a cryptic post from Chandra two days after his speech, on a line in a theatrical performance about Raavan’s decline due to his “arrogance”.

Speaking on the occasion of World Press Freedom Day on May 3, Chandra said, “Perhaps you might know that I am also known as the pioneer or founder of satellite television or private television in this country. Apart from Doordarshan, there was no other TV channel in 1991. And when I started it, today it has become an industry. Today there are about 500 private channels in India. Probably there will be more,” he said.

Newslaundry had earlier reported on Chandra’s empire, and how his house of cards had collapsed.

Recalling his meeting with a bureaucrat after he launched his channel, he said, “I was reminded of the day of Diwali in 1991, when I met the then secretary of the ministry of information and broadcasting of the Government of India. I went to meet Mr Mahesh Prasad ji in his office. And when I told him that sir, I am starting a private sector television satellite TV. And despite not being covered under your law, I surrender it to you…do you know what he said? He became very angry and said, ‘Over my dead body. I will not let you do it Subhash Chandra, and if you try to do it, I will put you in jail’. I was very shocked. I left saying I will do whatever I have to do.” 

“Even today, after 33 years, I feel something similar. I will mention it another time but today I will just say that about 150 to 155 crore people watch Zee network every day in India and abroad, including in Indian languages and 10 foreign languages…I assure you that we will do our best to ensure that real news reaches your home, your mobile, everywhere.”

For ground reports that talk about real issues, we need a free press. Here’s why the World Press Freedom Week is a great opportunity to power such reports.


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