The ban on NDTV India by the Union Ministry of Information & Broadcasting has invited sharp criticism from various quarters. The move is increasingly being seen as an attempt to muzzle the freedom of expression in the country. Even the Editor’s Guild of India has termed this ban as unprecedented.
Here is the full statement by the Editor’s Guild of India:
The Editor’s Guild of India strongly condemns 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Ministry of Information Broadcasting to take NDTV India off the air for a day and demands that the order be immediately rescinded.
The ostensible reason for the order as reported is that the channel's coverage of the Pathankot terror attack on January 2, 2016 that the government claims gave out sensitive information to the handlers of terrorists. NDTV in its response to a show cause by the government has maintained that its coverage was sober and did not carry any information that had not been covered by the rest of the media, and was in the public domain.
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 is a very disturbing development,” says NK Singh, General Secretary, Broadcast Editors Association.
NDTV also put out a statement last night which stated, “It is shocking that NDTV has been singled out in this manner. Every channel and newspaper had similar coverage. In fact NDTV's coverage was particularly balanced. After the dark days of the emergency when the press was fettered, it is extraordinary that NDTV is being proceeded against in this manner. NDTV is examining all options in this matter.”