NBA urges AP CM to withdraw order granting powers to bureaucrats against media

MUMBAI: The News Broadcasters Association (NBA) has urged Andhra Pradesh CM Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy to withdraw the order dated 30th October. Through the order, the state government has delegated powers to secretaries of respective departments to lodge complaints and to file appropriate legal cases through public prosecutor against false, baseless and defamatory news items published/telecast/posted in Print/ Electronic/Social Media.

The said order has also given powers to order inquiries to establish the veracity of news reports/posts on print, electronic and social media are and to issue rejoinders, file complaints and lodge appropriate cases.

The letter added that the NBA is aware that with freedom comes responsibility, and respects the role of government in ensuring such responsibility. NBA said that it condemns motivated, malicious reporting, attempts to fabricate news and any to attempt to gain popularity at the cost of journalistic integrity. Such acts, NBA believes puts at risk the credibility of electronic media including television news and indeed, the news media, as a whole.

But it also added that if stipulations, as have been prescribed by said Order, become the norm, the possibility of the news media being targeted at every instance, to prevent it from reporting important news will become a reality and therefore the said Order will lead to a ‘chilling effect’ on the media which in turn will affect the very survival and existence of the news media.

“Criminal intimidation of journalists and preventing them from performing their duties are violations of the freedoms enshrined in and guaranteed by the Constitution. Government intervention in news content without a transparent process is nothing short of censorship, and a threat to the freedom of the media/press.”

The letter reiterated the fact that a free and independent media is the cornerstone of India’s powerful democracy, and it behoves an elected government to support and strengthen media independence rather than throttle it and thereby affect a robust democracy.

“Further, it is a matter of great satisfaction and privilege to inform you that NBA had set up the News Broadcasting Standards Authority (NBSA) in 2008, which looks into complaints of its member broadcasters and the Chairperson of NBSA is Justice A. K. Sikri, former Judge of the Supreme Court of India, along with eight members,” the letter reads.

It also stated that the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting (MIB) and the Electronic Media Monitoring Center (EMMC) has been referring to NBSA several complaints received by MoI&B in relation to broadcasts made by NBA’s member channels.

“In relation to such referred matters, NBSA has endeavored to resolve the issues involved and to adjudicate upon the complaints to the satisfaction of the complainants/viewers and in a fair manner. Election Commission of India (ECI) and other government authorities have also approached NBSA from time to time in relation to complaints that they have had/received in respect of news broadcasts telecast by member channels of the NBA.”

It also pointed out that the Supreme Court in its order dated 12th January 2017 records the submission made by the counsel for the Union of India that the MIB has EMMC and is assisted by self-regulatory bodies like NBSA, Broadcasting Content Complaints Council (BCCC) and Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) to monitor adherence to the Programme and Advertising Codes.

“We request you as an elected representative who has won the recently concluded elections with a huge mandate, to withdraw the said Order to restore the confidence of the media and allow them to work in a free and fearless manner.”

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