On National Press Day, 'Rajasthan Patrika' leaves its editorial blank

To register its strong opposition to the controversial criminal law ordinance of the Vasundhara Raje government that puts restrictions on the media and gives protection to public servants.

November 16, 2017 01:11 pm | Updated 07:22 pm IST - JAIPUR

A screen shot of Rajasthan Patrika's blank editorial taken from its e-paper.

A screen shot of Rajasthan Patrika's blank editorial taken from its e-paper.

Leading Hindi daily Rajasthan Patrika on Thursday (National Press Day) left its editorial blank with a thick black border to register its strong opposition to the controversial criminal law ordinance of the Vasundhara Raje government that puts restrictions on the media and gives protection to public servants.

The National Press Day which is observed as a symbol of a free and responsible press in the country.

The newspaper, headquartered in Jaipur, had announced its boycott of Chief Minister Raje

The Criminal Laws (Rajasthan Amendment) Ordinance, 2017 , promulgated on September 6, provides immunity to the serving and retired public servants, judges and magistrates from probe and prosecution on complaints about their alleged offences without prior sanction by the authorities. It also bars the media from reporting on such accusations till the sanction is given.

 

Protesting against the sweeping powers given to the authorities to gag the media, Rajasthan Patrika Editor-in-Chief Gulab Kothari wrote in the blank editorial's headline that the “black law” had put journalism in danger. “With this [blank editorial], we studiously oppose the law which has murdered democracy,” he stated.

Eye-catching “lock” on front page

Since November 1, when it announced Ms. Raje's boycott in a scathing front page editorial, the daily has been publishing an eye-catching “lock”, titled Jab Tak Kaala, Tab Tak Taala (It is locked till the black law is in force), on the front page everyday. The “lock” says the issue involves democracy, freedom of expression and supremacy of people's voice.

The editorial staff looking after the edit page in the daily said the blank editorial's thick black border was meant to convey the newspaper's resolve to oppose the ordinance and protect the freedom of press. Besides, opinion pieces, readers' letters and articles on the issue are being regularly carried.

While a Bill, introduced in the Assembly on October 23 for replacing the ordinance, has since been referred to a select committee of the House for reconsideration, the ordinance is still in force, making journalists vulnerable to the government's punitive action.

HC Benches issue notices to Centre, State govt.

The Rajasthan High Court's Jodhpur and Jaipur Benches have issues notices to the Centre and the State government on as many as eight writ petitions challenging the ordinance. The State government is yet to file its reply in the court.

Mr. Kothari had pointed out that there were “glaring mistakes” in the way the Bill was tabled in the Assembly and referred to the select panel, while the “totalitarian rule” was trying to gain dominance over democracy.

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