Asserting that the media enjoys absolute freedom in India, Information and Broadcasting Minister Prakash Javadekar on Sunday said "we will expose" those surveys that tend to portray a "bad picture" about press freedom in the country.
On World Press Freedom Day, Javadekar said the media has the power to inform and enlighten people. "Media in India enjoy absolute freedom.
We will expose, sooner than later, those surveys that tend to portray bad picture about 'Freedom of Press' in India," he tweeted.
India dropped two places on a global press freedom index to be ranked 142nd out of 180 countries in the annual Reporters Without Borders analysis released last month.
Responding to Javadekar's tweet, Congress leader and former I&B minister Manish Tewari tweeted, "Absolute Freedom NDA/BJP 'estyle'. Doesn't Freedom of Speech & expression include the right to offend?"
Tewari also said former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had told him when he was the I&B minister that, "'Our approach to the media must be an essay in persuasion not coercion. Would you like it if you were in the opposition & government strong armed the Media'".
The Congress, in its message on the World Press Freedom Day, alleged that the BJP is "hell bent on destroying" the fourth pillar.
"India slipped two places in World Press Freedom Index to 142. As we commemorate World Press Freedom Day, we must remember that the BJP is hell bent on destroying this fourth pillar of democracy and we shouldn't let that happen," the opposition party said on its official Twitter handle.
"To all the journalists we would say, Daro Mat (Don't be scared)," it said.
BJP president J P Nadda said the press is the fourth pillar of India's democracy and plays a great role in the nation by shaping opinions and creating awareness.
"On this World Press Day, I salute our media persons for risking their lives to make public aware of various aspects of COVID-19," he said on Twitter.
World Press Freedom Day was proclaimed by the UN General Assembly in December 1993, following the recommendation of UNESCO's General Conference. Since then, May 3, the anniversary of the Declaration of Windhoek is celebrated worldwide as the World Press Freedom Day.