The Information & Broadcasting Ministry (I&B) on Thursday has levied a 24 hours off the air penalty for New Delhi Television Ltd’s Hindi news channel NDTV India for broadcasting “strategically sensitive details” related to Pathankot Airbase attack back in January. The channel will go off-air on 9 November 2016.
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An inter-ministerial committee found the channel had violated the program code under the Cable Television Networks (Amendment) Rules, 2015. The rule says “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”. However, NDTV India revealed exact location of terrorists in a live telecast. The committee’s order, dated November 2, refers to NDTV’s news telecast between 1225 and 1231 hours on January 4, 2016, that while counter operations by the security forces were still on, the reporter on ground, gave out “strategically-sensitive information”. The telecast also referred to the “ammunition stockpiles, MiGs, fighter planes, rocket launchers, mortars, helicopters, fuel tanks which could have been used by the terrorists themselves or their handlers to cause massive harm not only to national security, but also to the life of civilians and defense personnel”.
The committee had issued a show-cause notice to NDTV India. However, NDTV India gave a careless response and said the information it broadcast had been reported in national dailies earlier. But, the committee unanimously dismissed the channel’s stand. The order notes that unlike newspapers, TV has a “far wider and instantaneous impact”. An I&B official said –
Despite giving out the exact location of the terrorists while the operations were on, the channel has remained unrepentant as is clearly evident in their reply to the show-cause notice. Hence, the one day blackout has been meted out as a penalty. This is not the first instance of such a violation by the channel.
The order also notes that legally, the penalty for violation is a 30 days ban. However, given that this is the first such case of the rule since its introduction in June 2015, the penalty has been reduced to a day-long blackout. Meanwhile, some of the “intellectuals” without assessing the graveness of this situation, have instantly politicized the matter –
Govt orders shutdown of NDTV for Pathankot coverage while it tomtoms surgical strikes!This is the most serious attack on media & free speech https://t.co/sLb3AAGhQx
— Prashant Bhushan (@pbhushan1) November 3, 2016
सुन लो सारे चैनल वालों। अगर मोदी जी की आरती नहीं उतारी तो आपका चैनल भी बंद कर देंगे। https://t.co/IWqyaNSvFX
— Arvind Kejriwal (@ArvindKejriwal) November 3, 2016
Govt pulling TV news channels off air is a dangerous trend. Don't want sarkari babus deciding what content they like and what they don't.
— Rahul Kanwal (@rahulkanwal) November 3, 2016
One of India's most sober and responsible channels NDTV India to be banned for a day by I and B ministry. NDTV today, who tomorrow?
— Rajdeep Sardesai (@sardesairajdeep) November 3, 2016
Govt's one day ban on NDTV India is arbitrary and perhaps even malafide use of authority. NDTV must challenge this in court right away. 1/2
— Siddharth (@svaradarajan) November 3, 2016
The banning of NDTV India is a shocking flexing of govt muscle over free media. Don't shoot the messenger!
— Sagarika Ghose (@sagarikaghose) November 3, 2016