[stextbox id=”alert”]BJP rubbishes the allegations, questioning why nobody revolted when the UPA government took channels off air on 28 occasions between 2005 and 2013[/stextbox]
New Delhi: Opposition leaders like Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi, Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, etc and several members of the journalistic fraternity have criticised the NDA government’s decision to black out NDTV for a day for broadcasting strategically sensitive information during the terrorist attack on Pathankot.
The Information & Broadcasting Ministry has directed NDTV India to go off-air beginning the midnight of November 8 and resuming its services 24 hours later. The government claims that an inter-ministerial panel reached this decision after a thorough examination of the complaint that the channel had compromised the country’s security interests about nine months ago.
This means that the channel cannot be seen on a crucial day when viewers follow commentary on the US election results.
Reacting to the ban, Banerjee said, “NDTV ban is shocking. If Government had issues with Pathankot coverage, there are provisions available. But ban shows an Emergency-like attitude.”
Scion of the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty, Rahul Gandhi wrote on Twitter: “Detaining opposition leaders, blacking out tv channels — all in a day’s work in Modiji’s India. #NDTVBanned-shocking & unprecedented.”
DMK president released a press note on the issue, part of which read: “This action of the BJP government reminds me of the Emergency period when the articles I wrote in ‘Murosoli’, the party’s paper, were censored. This action is against the freedom of expression. If it continues in this vein, it will lead to a second Emergency and those black days will be imprinted in the hearts of the people forever.”
AAP supremo Kejriwal tweeted: “I hope the whole media goes off air for a day in solidarity wid (sic) NDTV.”
Several journalists are up in arms against the BJP-led NDA government on this issue, too. “The Editors Guild of India strongly condemns the unprecedented decision of the inter-ministerial committee of the Union Ministry of Information and Broadcasting to take NDTV India off the air for a day and demands that the order be immediately rescinded,” the guild said in a statement.
The Broadcast Editors’ Association (BEA) issued another statement. It says, “The decision to take the channel off the air for a day is a direct violation of the freedom of the media and therefore the citizens of India and amounts to harsh censorship imposed by the government reminiscent of the Emergency.”
Responding to the outrage in the media, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar said to a newspaper today, “I will convey your apprehensions and worries to the I&B Minister. But I feel that apart from violating guidelines pertaining to such coverage, this issue has something to do with security. Therefore, I will also tell them that the reasons behind it should be conveyed to the media.”
It may be noted that related allegations against NDTV since the Kargil war make it look like a habitual offender. Even recently, before Pathankot, they had been warned by the government. Refer to a copy of a relevant document in the adjoining image.
This is over and above the unrelated allegations that the said channel faces. First, it is alleged that, in the capacity of a production house, NDTV had billed Doordarshan for footage that it had stolen from Doordarshan for the programme “The World This Week” in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
Second, the Enforcement Directorate served a show cause notice to the private channel for violating the Foreign Exchange Management Act in transactions worth Rs 2,030 crore.
Third, academic Madhu Kishwar is embroiled in a court case with NDTV for accusing the media house, along with former minister in the UPA government P Chidambaram, of money laundering. It is surprising why NDTV did not drag Money Life and Outlook to the court for their allegation of corruption against the television channel. Screenshots from the reports in their respective websites follow.
It will be worth probing whether the journalist bodies are expressing solidarity with NDTV out of a genuine fellow-feeling while they feel they could be the next in the BJP government’s line of fire or they have other reasons. BJP spokesman Sudesh Verma rubbished the question as to why the Modi government did not bring the matter up with the National Broadcasting Standards Association, posed by the representative of the body, Qamar Waheed Naqvi, on Rajya Sabha TV today. Verma said that the self-styled body was hardly effective in ensuring self-regulation and that no media house took it seriously.
Verma pointed out that the UPA government had taken channels off-air 28 times between 2005 and 2013, with no journalist body registering a squeak of a protest.
He also had a complaint against the channel that reports to the Upper House chairman (and Vice-President) Hamid Ansari. “It was a panel of four-versus-one,” wrote in a WhatsApp group, adding, “I questioned the anchor’s statement that NDTV was the only channel speaking against this government. There can’t be a gag if only one channel is taken off-air for endangering national security.”
But the government must also clarify why it has been sitting on the legally made accusations against NDTV for the past two-and-a-half years for which it has ruled the country.