New Delhi: The Narendra Modi-led Union government has cut off advertisements to at least three major newspaper groups, in a move that executives and an opposition leader term as retaliation for unfavourable reports.
The newspaper groups are the Times Group, the ABP Group, which publishes The Telegraph, and The Hindu newspaper.
“There is a freeze,” an executive at Bennett, Coleman & Co, which controls the Times Group, told Reuters on the condition of anonymity. “Could be [because of] some reports they were unhappy with.” Around 15% of the Times Group’s advertising comes from the government, the executive said.
Critics have said that freedom of the press has been under attack since Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government first took office in 2014 and journalists have complained of intimidation for writing critical stories.
Now the big newspaper groups, which have a combined monthly readership of more than 26 million, say they are being starved of government ads worth millions of rupees that began even before Modi was elected to power last month with a landslide mandate.
Two ABP Group officials said the organisation has seen a 15% drop in government ads for six months. “Once you don’t toe the government line in your editorial coverage and you write anything against the government, then obviously the only way they can penalise you to choke your advertising supply,” one of the executives said.
Similarly, the Hindu newspaper has also seen a fall in advertisements from the government in recent months, after it published a report in February this year alleging wrongdoing in the Rafale aircraft deal between India and France.
Criticising the move, Congress lawmaker Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury said, “The undemocratic and megalomaniac style of stopping government advertisement is a message to media from this government to toe its line.”