The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting on November 28 summoned the news media owners along with the Indian Broadcasting Federation (IBF) and News Broadcasting Association (NBA) Chiefs to express concern over the coverage of the Mumbai terror attacks by the national news channels.
The coverage was seen harmful enough for the police to black out news channels during the day. A copy of the order is with exchange4media. The order, sent by the Deputy Commissioner of Police, said that “Section 19 of the Cable Television Networks Act empowers authorised officers to prohibit transmission of programmes that are not in conformity with the prescribed Programme Code…”. The order also stated that the “transmission of various clippings/ live relay/ coverage of the actions being taken by the police against the terrorists in South Mumbai is causing impediment in the police action… thereby, endangering the lives of the police personnel as also of the hostages.”
The Government, however, intervened and cancelled the order. The news channels went off-air for almost half an hour due to this order on the cable and satellite platforms only.
Officials from the Defence Ministry and Internal Security were also present at the MIB summoned meeting. The Government officials said at the meeting that the news media, by way of the short distance of the cameras from the action, had revealed important details of the operation such as the commando positions and so on, which could have been detrimental to the overall operation.
Information available with exchange4media shows that the media owners argued that there was lack of structured information from the Government to the broadcast media at present, and that there was no process to be followed or adhered to in terms of news coverage in situations like these. The Press Information Bureau was still print skewed in the dissemination of information and there was no clarity on the officials that could be contacted for verifying or cross checking any information.
The officials present at the meeting recognised the fact that information had to be disseminated and that the press was sensitive in its coverage so as to not air any communal crisis arising from the situation.
Sources also informed that the officials at the meeting agreed that a process of information dissemination had to be put in place. It was also agreed that the news broadcasting fraternity would train its reporters further in this area to be able to make an informed decision on where to draw the line in crisis coverage. The media owners discussed the area that can be from the point of action till where the cameras could be placed for the safety of all involved.
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