While the Bharatiya Janata Party leader had greeted journalists on World Press Freedom Day, his actions as Gujarat Chief Minister were contrary to his statement extolling the importance of preserving the freedom of the press, Congress spokesperson Kapil Sibal said at a press conference here.

"These words sound hollow when you look at the track record of Narendra Modi in Gujarat. Instead of seeing them (journalists) as friends, he targeted them if they wrote against him and he violated the freedom of press both in letter and spirit," he said.

Sibal alleged that since 2002, the Modi government in Gujarat had violated the rights of journalists several times, when their reports went against it.

He said Ahmedabad District Collector Dhananjay Dwivedi had ordered that Hindi news channel Aaj Tak should not be broadcast in Gujarat, and had prohibited the airing of programmes linked to the Tehelka sting operation that exposed the involvement of BJP and Sangh leaders in the communal violence of 2002.

He cited another case of local publication Surat Samna, which had published an article alleging mismanagement by the state government in releasing water from the Ukai dam which led to the flooding of Surat.

"Editor Manoj Shinde, the circulation manager and a computer operator were arrested on charges of sedition. Shinde apologised after 39 days in jail. After that, he was released," Sibal said.

Sibal also raised the issue of Purushottam Solanki, who "continues to be minister for ports and fisheries while he is being prosecuted".

The Congress leader alleged that Solanki had granted fishing contracts in the state in an arbitrary manner.

Claiming that this caused a financial loss to the government of Rs 42 crore per year for the next 10 years from 2012, Sibal alleged that Modi and his cabinet colleagues refused to sanction the prosecution of Solanki and that it was the governor who had to do it.

Modi "is certainly not an ideal representative of a man who embraces probity in public life", he said.

"On the other hand, he embraces the corrupt and protects them despite criminal prosecution pending against his close confidantes. His commitment to rid parliament of criminals is yet another example where his words and actions do not match," Sibal said.

(Agencies)

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