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Editors Guild demands withdrawal of ban order on NDTV India

The guild has said that imposing a ban without resorting to judicial intervention or oversight violates the fundamental principles of freedom and justice

BestMediaInfo Bureau | Delhi | November 4, 2016

NDTV-India

The Editors Guild of India has come up in full support of NDTV against the government’s order to take its Hindi news channel, NDTV India, off air for a day on November 9 and demanded an immediate withdrawal of the order.

“The Editors Guild of India strongly condemns the unprecedented decision of the inter-ministerial committee of the Union Ministry of Information Broadcasting to take NDTV India off the air for a day and demands that the order be immediately rescinded,” the guild said.

NDTV, in its official response on the matter earlier today, said, “It was shocking that NDTV has been singled out in this manner. Every channel and newspaper had similar coverage. In fact NDTV’s coverage was particularly balanced. After the dark days of the Emergency when the press was fettered, it is extraordinary that NDTV is being proceeded against in this manner. NDTV is examining all options in this matter.”

The ostensible reason for the order as reported is that the channel's coverage of the Pathankot terror attack on January 2, 2016 gave out sensitive information to the handlers of terrorists. NDTV in its response to a showcause by the government has maintained that its coverage was sober and did not carry any information that had not been covered by the rest of the media, and was in the public domain.

The guild said in its statement that the decision to take the channel off air for a day was a direct violation of the freedom of the media and therefore the citizens of India and amounts to harsh censorship imposed by the government reminiscent of the Emergency. “This first-of-its-kind order to impose a blackout has seen the Central government entrust itself with the power to intervene in the functioning of the media and take arbitrary punitive action as and when it does not agree with the coverage. There are various legal remedies available to both a citizen and a state in the Court of Law to take action for any irresponsible media coverage. Imposing a ban without resorting to judicial intervention or oversight violates the fundamental principles of freedom and justice. The Editors Guild of India calls for an immediate withdrawal of the ban order,” said the guild.

It may be recalled that Ministry of Information & Broadcasting, through a circular dated July 27, 2015, had notified the Cable Television Networks (Amendment) Rules, 2015, which states that “No programme shall be carried in the cable service which contains live coverage of any anti-terrorist operation by security forces, wherein media coverage shall be restricted to periodic briefing by an officer designated by the appropriate government till such operation concludes.”

It added: “…It has been brought to the notice of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting that during today's ongoing anti-terrorist operations in Gurdaspur, Punjab, some news and curent affairs TV channels have carried telecast of these operations without restricting themselves to periodic briefing by an officer designated by the appropriate government, though the operations had not been concluded. Such telecast is in clear violation of the Cable Television Networks (Amendment) Rules, 201 5, and is therefore liable for action thereunder.”

Before that, on March 20, 2015, the ministry had put out a notice that said:  “The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting has already issued advisories to all TV channels on 27th November, 2008, 3rd December, 2008 and 20th November, 2009… not to focus on or report the location, strength, movement, strategy and other related operations being followed by the security forces engaging with the terrorists so as to avoid any adverse impact on rescue operations.”

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