India’s Adani defends media bid amid press freedom fears – Digital Journal

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Adani, 60, is the third richest person in the world – Copyright AFP INDRANIL MUKHERJEE

nivrita gangulia

Indian tycoon Gautam Adani said on Friday that the media should have the “courage” to support the government where justified, after its hostile takeover bid for one of the country’s top broadcasters raised fears about media freedom.

Adani, 60, is the world’s third-richest person, with an estimated net worth of $134 billion and interests ranging from Australian coal mines to India’s busiest ports.

He is also considered a close acolyte of Hindu nationalist Prime Minister Narendra Modi, often publicly supporting his policies.

A company in his Adani Group revealed in August that it had indirectly bought 29 percent of NDTV, against the wishes of the station’s management, and is moving to buy a majority stake next month.

In a wide-ranging interview with the Financial Times, Adani said his foray into the media was a “liability” rather than a business opportunity.

He added that it was time for India to have a global news conglomerate on par with Al Jazeera and said the channel should support the government where appropriate.

“Independence means that if the government has done something wrong, you say it’s wrong,” Adani told the British newspaper.

“But at the same time, you have to have courage when the government does the right thing every day. You have to say that too.”

NDTV’s two channels, one in Hindi and one in English, stand out among the myriad of continuous news stations in India for inviting government critics as well as hard-hitting reporting.

It has already been plagued by a slew of legal cases that its owners say were the result of their reporting.

Under Modi, India has slipped 10 places in the Reporters Without Borders world press freedom ranking and now ranks 150 out of 180 countries surveyed.

Critical reporters often find themselves behind bars and harassed on social media by supporters of Modi’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

– Aggressive expansion –

Self-made billionaire Adani, 60, surpassed fellow Indian Mukesh Ambani this year to become Asia’s richest man.

Like Modi, Adani hails from the western state of Gujarat and his conglomerate has expanded aggressively in recent years, including into new areas such as airports and renewable energy.

But its growth into capital-intensive businesses has raised alarm bells, with analysts at Fitch Group’s CreditSights warning in August that the group was “deeply overleveraged.”

On Friday, the group’s Adani Enterprises approved plans to raise $2.45 billion through a follow-up public offering, which will be the largest ever in India, subject to regulatory approval.

The new funds will be key to reducing debt and fueling further business expansion for the flagship entity, whose shares have risen nearly 1,000 percent in the past two years.

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