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June 25, 2002 | 1447 IST
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Opposition flays Cabinet decision on FDI in print media

Congress on Tuesday opposed Cabinet decision to permit 26 per cent foreign direct investment in print media.

"Congress Party's position remains unchanged on the FDI in print media, which has been reflected in the Cabinet Resolution 1955. The party has been opposing FDI in print media, which is also not favoured by the Standing Committee of Parliament", party spokesman Anand Sharma said.

However, he said the party would take an "appropriate" position on the matter when it comes before Parliament.

Left parties too attacked the government for handing over the media to "imperialist" powers saying they should draw a lesson from the recent episode of the Time magazine.

"It is a very dangerous game the government is playing by handing over print media to imperialist forces who have been carrying out malicious propaganda. Now with this decision they will have a right to do so," Communist Party Marxist general secretary Harkishan Singh Surjeet said.

He said the decision would be harmful for democracy and only serve the political interests of those countries and the business interests of their multinational companies.

CPI(M) veteran Jyoti Basu, described FDI in print media as "harmful" and "unnecessary" and said his party has been vehemently opposing the step.

Basu regretted that such a decision had been taken when Parliament was not in session.

"Whatever decisions this NDA government has been taking, are going against the interests of the people," the former chief minister of West Bengal said.

Meanwhile, Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee declined to comment on the issue.

Nationalist Congress Party lashed out and termed it as "objectionable and incorrect."

"Those who preached the mantra of Swadeshi all along are now allowing FDI in print media," NCP president Sharad Pawar told reporters.

Making the important tool like media available to foreign nationals will definitely have an adverse impact, he said.

Pawar observed that the government's move despite stiff opposition from Parliamentary committee, headed by Somnath Chaterjee, only shows "its inability to take decisions."

"We are a democratic nation and can allow Indians criticising our own countrymen but in no way we will allow foreigners to control media and teach our political leadership," the NCP president said.

Communist Party of India's national secretary Atul Kumar Anjaan described the move as "anti-national" and an "attack on the Constitution and democracy". He said it would "kill our own newspaper industry, especially the language press".

Stating that all major political parties and the Parliamentary Standing Committee had opposed FDI in print media, Anjaan warned the move would cater to the "geopolitical interests" of the developed world.

"The Cabinet has no right to decide on a matter of such grave importance without discussing it in Parliament," he added.

Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh said the organisation was against ''unrestrained FDI'' in any economic activity. ''We are totally against FDI in the field of education as well as information,'' RSS spokesman M G Vaidya said. He said if the non-resident Indians wanted to enter the segment, the RSS could have a different point of view.

In 1954, the first Press Commission warned against foreign entry in print. A year later, the then government decided to bar foreigners from running or investing in newspapers. It also decided that foreign publications cannot have Indian editions.

Last year, a Cabinet note proposed part modification of the 1955 policy.

The people opposing FDI say such a move will endanger the country's sovereignty and the investors will look at profits.

Besides, it will balkanise intellectual space and allow foreign firms to control politics.

However, the advocates of FDI believe that it is part of the liberalisation process and the move will only create more opportunities and healthy contribution. Moreover, satellite TV and Internet are already in the country.

The Parliamentary Standing Committee had considered the two reports with divergent recommendations earlier this year. One rejected the entry of foreign players, while the other was keen to allow 26 per cent foreign equity with the rider that control should remain in Indian hands.

A vote was taken and 16 members voted against the FDI entry and ten in favour. The final report rejected FDI, but had some dissenting notes from BJP, DMK and Shiv Sena nominees on the panel.

The Bharatiya Janata Party while welcoming the decision cautioned that a regulatory mechanism must be created to ensure safety of national interests.

BJP Economic Cell convenor Jagadish Shettigar said the immediate outcome of the decision would be the visible improvement in the quality of newspapers. The service conditions of the employees were bound to improve, he claimed.

He said the regulatory-mechanism must be put in place to check any misuse of the media clout especially in a situation like the tension on the border.

The decision was obviously backed by the demand from the newspaper industry, Mr Shettigar added.

BJP Spokesman Sunil Shastri said the party would come out with detailed views on Wednesday.

"We are studying the matter in details and will give our views on Wednesday," party spokesman Sunil Shastri said.

(With additional inputs from UNI)

Govt allows 26% FDI in print media
Financial Times keen on taking equity in BS: Ninan
FDI in print may kill small papers: INS chief
Bouquets and brickbats for FDI in print move
CPM to appeal to President not to approve FDI in print

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