New Delhi: India’s television news channels have decided to reject two so-called advisories issued by the ministry of information and broadcasting (I&B), in a continuing stand-off between the audio-visual media and the government over the coverage of terror attacks and threats.
The ministry faxed an advisory on Wednesday night to two industry bodies—Indian Broadcasting Foundation (IBF) and News Broadcasters Association (NBA)—as well as all news and current affairs channels at around 9.30pm that said continued coverage of Mumbai terrorist attack was “likely to inhibit the return to normalcy…”
“And whereas such unbalanced reporting of news…indirectly supports the basic design of the terrorists to create chaos, lack of faith in the Indian polity and loss of image internationally, the media is hereby advised to rise to the occasion to reassure the Indian citizens…,” the advisory added.
This was issued after a meeting of top bureaucrats of the ministries of home and I&B, said two persons familiar with the development, who declined to be named.
The government has implied that the coverage of the terror attack could result in a loss of broadcasting licence. “The media is also advised that continued unbalanced reporting which inhibits the restoration of normalcy and propagates a feeling of insecurity may be treated as a coverage against the interest of the nation in the circumstances and attract appropriate action as per rules and as per the terms and conditions of the permission granted for uplinking and downlinking of TV channels in India,” the advisory said.
On Thursday morning, as news about the threat perception to some important airports were broadcast on TV news channels, who started taking stock of their preparedness against a terror strike, IBF president Jawahar Goel received a call from Prawin Kumar, a director at the I&B ministry, according to an email IBF sent out to its members at 1.41pm.
“The president-IBF has received a call from Mr Prawin Kumar, director (BC), ministry of I&B informing that most of our member news broadcasters are showing about the security lapses at the airports and other important locations and further showing the strength of security personnel at such places. Mr Prawin Kumar has asked that the news channels should stop showing the same immediately.”
Editors of several news channels that are members of the NBA met at the Noida office of IBN18 Broadcast Ltd by 2.30pm and discussed their response to the two advisories even as Mumbai-based editors joined in via tele-conferencing.
According to a person present at the meeting, the editors decided to “summarily reject the advisories and meet the Prime Minister to protest against the hourly advisories that are being sent the media’s way.”
It was decided at the meeting that a response would be made by the NBA by Thursday evening, this person said on condition of anonymity.
However, NBA president G. Krishnan said a response can be made only after a board meeting of the NBA.