New Delhi: The Editors Guild of India, the Broadcast Editors Association (BEA) and the News Broadcasters Association (NBA) on Friday condemned the information & broadcasting (I&B) ministry’s decision to take Hindi language news channel NDTV India off air for 24 hours for broadcasting “sensitive details” on the 2 January Pathankot terror attack.
In a statement, the Editors Guild, an organization of editors across media, said it “demands that the order be immediately rescinded”.
“The decision to take the channel off-air for a day is a direct violation of the freedom of media and therefore the citizens of India and amounts to a harsh censorship imposed by the government reminiscent of the emergency,” the Guild said.
While BEA demanded that the order be withdrawn immediately and said that it would come out with a comprehensive report on the issue, NBA asked the government to re-consider its decision in the interest of freedom of media.
“It is surprising to note that NDTV India has been singled out by the IMC (inter-ministerial committee)/ MoI&B (ministry of Information & Broadcasting), when the rest of the media also did cover the terror attack and all such reports were available in the public domain. The IMC and the MoI&B should have seen it from the prism of freedom of the media,” NBA said in a statement.
The strong reactions came a day after an inter-ministerial committee set-up by the I&B ministry found NDTV India to have violated the programme code set under the Cable Television Networks (Amendment) Rules, 2015.
In a live telecast, the channel revealed the exact location of the suspected Pakistan-based terrorists involved in the attack on the Pathankot air base, the committee said in its recommendations, released by the I&B ministry on Thursday.
According to the Cable Television Networks (Amendment) Rules, 2015, “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.”
The I&B ministry ordered NDTV India to go off air for 24 hours starting on 9 November after the inter-ministerial committee found the channel had disclosed details about the location of an ammunition depot and the place where terrorists were holed up as well as the location of a school and residential areas. The committee said the coverage could have jeopardized national security and the lives of civilians and defence personnel.
Seven troopers and all five attackers, suspected to be Pakistan-based terrorists, died in the Pathankot attack.
“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,” the Editors Guild said.
“The Editors Guild of India calls for an immediate withdrawal of the ban order,” it said.
Earlier on Friday, NDTV said the channel had been singled out. “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,” the broadcaster said in a statement.