Medha Patkar, Arundhati Roy are signatories
NEW DELHI: Eminent writers, artists, social activists, academicians and journalists from all over the country have urged Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to order a probe into the deal for takeover of the United News of India (UNI) by Subhash Chandra of Zee and his reported attempts to "grab and consolidate control of the agency using unfair and foul means."
In an open letter to the Prime Minister, they said that control by "a single individual can play havoc with the free flow of information and thus it can be a threat to the freedom of the press and democracy."
Coming together under the banner of "Citizens for UNI," they pointed out that UNI was floated, at the inspiration of the then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, under Section 25 of the Companies Act, 1956 that gives it a trust-like character.
"As India integrates itself with the global community, a free, independent and robust second news agency alone can ensure competition in the flow of news as well as help preserve the sovereignty of the nation and focus on the interest of all stake holders in a democracy. Even though newspapers will follow their own agenda and goals, the news agencies must remain neutral and give equal importance to all sections of society," they said.
Citizens for UNI said the `capture' of the news agency would tear down its neutral character. "It has served the country and its democratic traditions with distinction. Small and big, markets and society, foreign and domestic, find an equal space in its reporting. The diversity of India, its rich cultural heritage, Parliament and State assemblies as well as the Courts are reported with the highest professional standards," they said.
The signatories to the "Open Letter" included Medha Patkar of Narmada Bachao Andolan, Booker prize winner Arundhati Roy, Magsaysay award winner Aruna Roy, Vice-Chancellor of the Jamia Milia University Prof. Mushirul Hassan, economist Jayati Ghosh, Hindi poet Kedar Nath Singh and film-maker Anand Patwardhan.
The Joint Action Committee, spearheading the agitation for the last 75 days, said on Saturday that the Information and Broadcasting Ministry has begun discussions with all the parties.