New Delhi: Former UPA Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had allegedly called up NDTV owner Prannoy Roy back in 2005 and scolded him like a teacher pulls up a pupil. It was to get a news item then run by the channel dropped. The damning revelation came as part of a Facebook post by senior journalist and former NDTV India employee Samarendra Singh.

While “these days two senior TV journalists, Punya Prasun Bajpai and Raveesh Kumar have been rancouring that the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) has been calling up owners and editors of channels and there is in effect an undeclared censorship,” wrote Singh on his FB page, “I am going to narrate a 13-year-old story” when the “most liberal and weakest Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was in power.”

Singh recalls that NDTV in those “golden days” decided to air a programme on the performance report of then UPA ministers, which outlined the report cards of not just the best performing, but the worst performing ministers too. However, after a call from the PM, Roy decided to run only the list of good ministers, and dropped the litany of bad ones.

The programme was run on prime time — at 9am. “I was in charge of the next bulletin. Dibang, the editor, called me and asked me to drop the list of the bad performers. I pointed that it would amount to sycophancy. He agreed and told me that he would take the matter up with Prannoy Roy and get back to me.”

“He called back and told me to drop the list of ministers with poor performace and retain the good ones. I did so,” Singh wrote.

Singh wrote that he came to understand the context of that incident when Manmohan Singh’s media advisor Sanjay Baru released his book, The Accidental Prime Minister. “Nearly nine years later, in 2014 when Manmohan Singh’s media advisor Sanjay Baru’s book hit the stands, I came to know why Roy had done so. On page number 97, Baru said that hitherto the most liberal and weakest prime minister Manmohan Singh had called up NDTV’s powerful journalist-owner Dr Pranoy Roy and had reprimanded him. By complying with the 'order', what journalist-turned-businessman Prannoy Roy did can be called anything but journalism.”

“After being castigated by the PM, great journalist-owner Roy could not even muster the courage to drop the list entirely,” Singh added.

“If a journalist is saying that suddenly the PMO has started calling, it can mean only two things. First reason can be that the journalist concerned has not been on any such responsible position in a channel that he could get calls from government representatives. The second reason can be that the journalist is himself part of a big political game and under that is trying to propagate a common thing as an uncommon occurrence,” Singh said.