CHANDIGARH: Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) President Sukhbir Singh Badal on Thursday condemned the Income Tax raids on media outlets, saying the latter were being persecuted for exposing the NDA government’s “mismanagement” of the Covid-19 pandemic, besides asking tough questions on the Union government’s surveillance on politicians, journalists and activists through Pegasus spyware.

In a statement here, Badal said it was condemnable that the NDA government had targeted Hindi daily Dainik Bhaskar and the Bharat Samachar group because they had posed tough questions to the government in keeping with high standards of journalism.

“The Union Government should not try to muzzle the freedom of the press in this manner. The SAD stands resolutely in solidarity with the media in this hour of crisis.”

Badal said the Centre should respond positively to criticism on sensitive issues like Covid-19 mismanagement as they reflected the sentiments of the citizens of the country.

He said Dainik Bhaskar had exposed the manner in which the pandemic was mishandled both by the Centre as well as several states. “It had also covered the surveillance of several politicians as well as journalists and activists through Pegasus spyware extensively which was probably not to the liking of the NDA government.”

Badal said it had also come to light that even employees of Dainik Bhaskar had been victimised with the mobiles of employees present in offices being seized and night shift workers being barred from leaving the office. This kind of persecution of the fourth estate does not bode well for a democracy, he added.

Asking the NDA government to bring about a course correction in its functioning, the SAD President said the government was also following a “vindictive approach” towards farmers and the Kisan Andolan solely because the latter had questioned its policies.

“Farmers have rightly questioned the logic behind bringing in the three agricultural laws which help only the corporations and will result in the corporatisation of agriculture in the country. Instead of listening to the farmers and resolving their grievances, the Centre is adopting an intransigent attitude towards them.”

He also questioned the logic of Union Agriculture Minister Narender Singh Tomar in saying that the government was open for talks with farmers after clearly stating that the three ‘black’ laws would not be repealed.

“The government should repeal the three agricultural laws first, ” he added.

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