The one-day ban on NDTV's Hindi channel ‘NDTV India’ on Monday was put on hold by Information and Broadcasting (I&B) Minister Venkaiah Naidu after the Supreme Court agreed to hear the TV news channel's appeal on Tuesday against the ban.
Last week, NDTV India was ordered to stop broadcasting for 24 hours on Wednesday with the government accusing it of broadcasting sensitive details of January's terror attack on the air force base in Pathankot.
Earlier in the day, NDTV India knocked the doors of the Supreme Court challenging the government’s one-day ban.
According to sources, the channel in its petition has refuted the allegations and pointed out that other channels and newspapers had reported the same information.
A I&B ministry committee on last Thursday ordered that the channel would go off air for 24 hours from 00:01hrs on November 9, as it found its coverage of the Pathankot terrorist attack “to be in violation of broadcasting norms”.
It said the channel gave out sensitive information that could have been used by the handlers of the terrorists involved in the attack.
The ban had been condemned by editors and journalists countrywide and parallels were being drawn to the Emergency of the 1970s when basic constitutional rights, including the freedom of the press, were blatantly violated.
GUILD SLAMMED BAN
The Editors Guild of India had already said the order was unprecedented and that the Centre appeared to have given itself 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 organisation, a grouping of the editors of all major newspapers and magazines in the country, said if the government finds any media coverage objectionable, it can approach the courts.
The first-of-its-kind order has imposed a blackout prohibiting “the transmission or re-transmission of NDTV India channel for one day on any platform throughout India with effect from 00:01 hrs on 9th November to 00:01 hrs of 10th November”.
The committee’s order, dated November 2, refers to NDTV’s news telecast between 1225 and 1231 hours on January 4, 2016, while counter operations by the security forces were still on at the Pathankot airbase.
It stated that the reporter on ground, while replying to questions posed by the anchor, gave out “strategically-sensitive information”.
The telecast, the order stated, referred to the “ammunition stockpiled in the airbase, MiGs, fighter planes, rocket launchers, mortars, helicopters, fuel tanks which was likely to be used by the terrorists themselves or their handlers to cause massive harm not only to national security, international standing of the country but also life of civilians and defence personnel”.
The order mentioned that the channel also gave out details of schools and residential areas located at the airbase, endangering the lives of civilians.
The inter-ministerial committee noted that the “telecast was in clear violation of the programme code under Cable TV Network Rules, 1994, which prevents live coverage of anti-terrorist operations by security forces. Until the operations conclude, the rules also limit media coverage to only the briefing given by designated officials which in this case is the DIG, NSG”, it said.
NDTV refuted the allegations and pointed out that other channels and newspapers reported the same information.
Mr Naidu countered that the ban is "in the interest of the country's security" and that the barrage of criticism confronted by the government appears "politically inspired".After a large protest held by journalists from every major media organisation in Delhi, the Press Council of India said the government's action amounts to "uncalled for censorship" at a time when "press freedom is already under increasing threat in the country".
This article has been made possible because of financial support from Independent and Public-Spirited Media Foundation.