GOVT DEFENDS NDTV INDIA BAN, SAYS UPA GAVE 21 SUCH ORDERS
The government maintained that a top-level committee decided on the penalty of taking NDTV India off air just for a day instead of 30 days which it had considered because it felt the channel cannot get away with the “huge indiscretion and violation of rules” in its coverage of the Pathankot terror attack. Rejecting criticism that the decision on NDTV India amounted to an Emergency-era order, officials said 21 such orders had been issued by the UPA governments since 2005.
The Inter-Ministerial Committee (IMC), which looked into the matter has in their comments, mentioned clearly that the threat to national security cannot be justified on any grounds whatsoever, sources said. The IMC also noted that this was not the first violation by the channel and that there are previous incidents where the channel had violated the Program code of Cable act,” a source said. Senior officials in the I&B ministry also said that this is not the first time when an order has been issued to take a channel off air. Since 2005, 28 such orders banning channels from one day to two months have been issued when the channels had been found violating the cable TV rules and programme code guidelines.
“Of these, around 21 orders were issued against different channels during the term of the Congress-led UPA,” an official said. Sources said the IMC had noted with grave concern that the channel had revealed sensitive detail like location of ammunition depot and place where terrorists were held up, location of school and residential areas which could have been misused by handlers of the intruders.
This could have jeopardised national security and also lives of civilians and defence personnel, they added. A senior I&B ministry official emphasised that the channel had been given ample opportunity to explain its side as well which was factored in by the high-level panel. Emphasising that coverage of anti-terror operations is a sensitive issue, officials said several advisories in this regard have been issued to broadcasters.
The BJP supported the government’s decision to ban news channel NDTV India for a day, saying the nation comes first and there cannot be any compromise with national security. “We support the freedom of press in a democracy. But nation comes first and there cannot be any compromise with national security,” its National Secretary Shrikant Sharma said. The one-day ban over the channel’s coverage of Pathankot terror attack drew sharp condemnation from Opposition parties and media bodies which called it “shocking and authoritarian” and reminiscent of Emergency days.
The leaders of the non-BJP parties and the media bodies also demanded immediate withdrawal of the order imposing the blackout on November 9.
Left parties attack Centre
Left parties attacked the Centre over the one-day ban on a leading Hindi TV channel ‘NDTV India, terming it as “undeclared emergency”, which they said, is “unacceptable” and sought reversal of the decision involving the channel. The parties said it was “ironical” the move comes even as Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke on “dangers of Emergency” at a media award function two days ago even as Rahul Gandhi and Arvind Kejriwal were detained after they staged protest following suicide of an ex-serviceman over OROP.
“It is ironical that while the Prime Minister delivered speech on dangers of emergency at an award function, at the very moment, a senior Parliamentarian and the Delhi Chief Minister were taken into custody.
“And on top of that now comes the attack on freedom of expression (the taking off air of NDTV India). This is an undeclared emergency. So, this is something that is not acceptable in our democracy,” CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury said.
Echoing his views, the CPIML-Liberation said the action against the Hindi news channel over its coverage of Pathankot attack was “blatant” and demanded its reversal.
In a statement, the party expressed concerns also over the ban imposed on Kashmir Reader few weeks ago and the alleged attacks on scribes in Chhattisgarh’s Bastar district by security forces.
In such a context, the CPIML-Liberation said, a channel that has retained “some measure of professionalism and journalistic credibility is being punished”.
“If this is not an undeclared Emergency, what is? The CPIML asked and demanded that the I&B Minister forthwith withdraw its diktat to take NDTV off the air and lifting of the ban on the Kashmir Reader,” CPIML-Liberation Politburo member Prabhat Kumar said.
An inter-ministerial panel had concluded that ‘NDTV India’ had revealed crucial and “strategically sensitive” information when the terror attack on IAF base in January was being carried out, official sources had said.
The Information and Broadcasting ministry while invoking the powers under the Cable TV Networks (Regulation) Act said it “orders to prohibit the transmission or re-transmission of NDTV India channel for one day on any platform throughout India with effect from 00:01 hours on November 9th, 2016 till 00:01 hours of November 10th, 2016”.
This is the first such order against a TV channel over its coverage of a terror attack, the norms regarding which were notified last year.