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Media fraternity rallies in support of NDTV India against MIB’s one-day ban order

MUMBAI: Even as the government has pulled up NDTV India for its Pathankot terror attack coverage, the Dr Prannoy Roy-promoted Hindi news channel has found support from other media outlets.

The media fraternity has rallied around in support of NDTV India following the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting’s (MIB) decision to ban the channel for a day on 9 November for alleged content violation related to its Pathankot terror attack coverage.

The News Broadcasters Association (NBA), Editors Guild of India (EGI) and Broadcasters Editors Association have condemned the government’s decision to take the channel off the air for a day.

The Inter-Ministerial Committee (IMC) of the MIB had accused the channel of sharing sensitive information to the handlers of terrorists through its coverage of the Pathankot terror attack. The MIB directed the channel to go off the air for a day despite NDTV India’s contention that its coverage was within the ambit of the content code.

The NBA said that it is deeply concerned by the ministry’s decision. It urged the MIB to reconsider the decision in the interest of the freedom of the media. The NBA also said that the MIB had singled out NDTV India for its coverage when the information shared during the coverage was already in the public domain.

“It is surprising to note that NDTV India has been singled out by the IMC/MoI&B 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, which is guaranteed in the Constitution and not gone strictly by the regulations under the Cable Act,” NBA said in a statement.

The association said that the MIB should have referred the alleged violation of NDTV India to the News Broadcasting Standards Authority (NBSA), the independent self-regulatory body of the NBA.

In a strongly worded statement, the EGI also condemned “the unprecedented decision of the inter-ministerial committee of the Union Ministry of Information Broadcasting to take NDTV India off the air for a day”.

The EGI also demanded that the order be immediately rescinded. Like NBA, the EGI also supported NDTV India’s claim that it did not carry any information that had not been covered by the rest of the media.

According to the guild, 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.

“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. There are various legal remedies available to both a citizen and a state in the court of law to have action taken for any irresponsible media coverage. Imposing a ban without resorting to judicial intervention or oversight violates the fundamental principles of freedom and justice. The Editors Guild of India calls for an immediate withdrawal of the ban order,” it said.

The Broadcasters Editors Association also issued a statement demanding withdrawal of the ban. “Broadcast Editors’ Association expresses deep concern at the government’s decision to ban NDTV India for a day. Imposing a ban is a violation of freedom of expression and the decision should be withdrawn immediately. BEA would go into the issue in detail and come out with a comprehensive report on it,” it stated.

Condemning the ban on the Hindi news channel, the Mumbai Press Club demanded that the ban be withdrawn immediately.

“Though there are various legal options available for the government in the Indian court of law for any irresponsible media coverage, the I&B ministry action of banning against a specific TV channel that has been critical of the government, and has done serious ground reporting on the views of the common man, does not augur well for freedom of expression of the country,” the Mumbai Press Club said in a statement.

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