Most of the Indian journalists across the platforms have united against the order of the central government which has banned the telecast of Hindi news channel ‘NDTV India’ for one day; i.e. for November 09 stating the plea that the channel had revealed “strategically sensitive information” during its coverage of the militant attack on the Pathankot airbase which took place in January this year and killed seven soldiers.
Television channels have been blacked out 28 times over the past decade for violating various broadcasting norms but it is the first time national security clause has been invoked in the ban.
Union Ministry of Information and Broadcasting served a show cause notice to NDTV under the programme code, a list of broadcast rules made by the Union government as per the Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act of 1995, which was amended in 2015 to prohibit “live coverage of any anti-terrorist operation by security forces… till such operation concludes.”
However, in its reply to the notice, NDTV had claimed that the coverage was entirely balanced and responsible. The reply also pointed out that the sensitive information on which the channel was been targeted was already out in the public domain.
It’s true that before NDTV’s reporter had made the coverage, The Indian Express had already published an IANS report which stated the presence of fighter jets, helicopters, missiles and other critical assets at the airbase. HT and Times of India had also mentioned the presence of terrorists but the government had said that the visual medium of TV had a greater impact than the print medium which is not accessible soon.
The fact is that with NDTV many other channels like News 24, ABP and Zee news’ Punjab-Haryana-Himachal channel had already reported that “two terrorists were holed up in the building.”
It’s clear how the government is unfairly banning the channel.
If the rules have been violated and national security is at stake then all channels should be treated similarly with the help of legal steps but banning the channel from broadcasting news is a shame on democracy which reminds the time of emergency ushered in by then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.
This blackout by the government has been called as the “direct violation of the freedom of the media” by the Editor’s Guild. Mumbai Press club has also condemned this move.
It’s an irony this incident has happened during the regime of Prime Minister Narendra Modi who had criticized the Emergency period two days ago.
In today’s time when new channels are busy racing to achieve the highest TRP and influence the audience by shouting at the top of their voice and show a circus during the primetime, NDTV is one channel which maintains its stature with broadcasting true news and keeping itself at a distance with the circus mania.
Yes, it does not shout to make itself hear, yet it knows how to attract the audience in the right way and banning such a channel, even for a day raises several questions which the government is not ready to answer.
While journalists are busy criticizing this move, the audience should also ask themselves if they want to remain silent on the issue like always or stand up against it because at last, it is the audience which will be impacted by the ban on such channels.
If today it is NDTV, tomorrow it can be ABP, Times Now, CNN-IBN or any other. For democracy to prevail, it’s important to stand up, even against the government.