The country's top editors and journalists gathered today at the Press Club of India to share their concerns about the recent CBI raids on NDTV. While emphasizing that nobody is above the law, they all spoke of the dangers of direct or indirect attempts to intimidate the media. Describing the case against NDTV as "absolutely false and concocted," NDTV's Prannoy Roy said, "I commit we will fight every one of these false charges openly and transparently....all we ask is that this inquiry be held in a time-bound manner."
Here's the transcript of Dr Prannoy Roy's full speech:
My arm was twisted by my boss. I have the same boss at work and at home... Radhika. She said for once in your life, do something good.
But I must say that it is great, great to have all of you here. Honestly, it is moving.
I want to remind everyone of you that we are all here because of these gentlemen. They've fought much tougher battles and they gave us freedom; it's in your shadow that we've tried to grow. Thank you and God bless you! Thank you very much indeed.
I went to China once and I was on a panel of the Fortune magazine. And the first question they asked me - "You from India. You've seen China. Don't you feel jealous?"
Well, actually, I do feel a bit jealous but I wasn't going to admit it there. I said, "Yeah, you've got great skyscrapers, but we have the best skyscraper overall. Freedom of speech, which you don't have." Next time they didn't allow me to speak. They wanted to check my speech before I was allowed to talk. But most of all, I've got just three points to make.
And the first point is... I'm not gonna speak for long. This is not about NDTV. This is a signal for all of us. And the fact that there's no case that is a flimsy, ridiculous, concocted set of facts makes it even bigger signal. They're trying to tell us we can suppress you even if you haven't done nothing wrong. That's the signal. If you do something wrong, we all deserve punishment. But they're telling you, we will fix you even if you're innocent. Remember that signal and fight it. We must. And be clear, it is a signal for the entire free press of India. And boy, do we love the free press. It's the most beautiful thing about India... Very few countries have this. Let's not lose it. Let's treasure it!
So their basic idea is crawl or we'll come and get you. Stand up, they'll never come for you. Mark my words.
And my second point is - in this whole thing, our fight and our criticism, frankly, is not against the CBI or the ED or the income tax. It's against politicians who are manipulating and want to eviscerate these institutions of our country. They want to disembowel them. We are not fighting them. The poor guys, they have families. But we are fighting. We know the politicians. They tell us, off the record, why they have to do this. And you'll get these politicians making all kinds of claims and using these little forces, these institutions, and ruining and destroying our country.
Finally, I'd like to say this concocted set of facts. Please do not believe ever there is no smoke without a fire. Politicians can make smoke without any fire. They can do it quite easily. There's many more to come.
As Ninan was mentioning, one of the factors they've said when NBC and General Electric invested 150 million dollars in us. They're saying, no, no, they didn't invest. It's a sham transaction. We send money out through hawala. Mr Immelt and Mr Jeff Zucker, who's now head of CNN and was head of NBC at the time, they acted as money launderers and round-tripped the money back to us. That's the accusation that India is making of General Electric and the head of CNN Worldwide. I'm ashamed of our politicians who can say that. It's a disgrace to our country that we should even think that and accuse people like that of that. They've also accused us and I'm not joking of carrying on a prostitution racket in the Income Tax department. NDTV carries on a prostitution racket in the Income Tax department. You know, we do things properly, not by half measures.
They're accusing us of siphoning money. No evidence. But it's all part of the game. All I can say is here today I commit that we will answer every one of these false charges openly and transparently. All I ask is please make it a time-bound process. What has happened in the income tax case... We appealed. Three years, the appeal is in the income tax appellate authority. Three years not heard once. The government lawyer has asked for 21 adjournments in three years, and we've asked for zero. We want it to be heard. They don't want it to be heard. There's no blasted case. So if this can all be put together and in a time bound - three months, six months - overseen, open, transparent. We would just love that. And I think all of us in all our issues just ask for transparency and a deadline, please.
I just also have one last sentence to end with.
I commit to you here that Radhika and I and NDTV have never touched one rupee of black money. We have never bribed one person in our lives. All the houses we bought are bought in white... Our estate agent is bloody upset with us every time we ask him. But we say no - white or nothing. And he finds a place. If you stick by your principles, you will get the answers.
And I want to say today that we will die knowing we have never bribed anybody and never touched black money.
We will die. But most important, we will live happily ever after. Thank you very much.