Stating that the BJP and the NDA Government have the highest regard for media and the freedom of media and will never allow any infringement of it, Union Information and Broadcasting Minister M Venkaiah Naidu today termed as ‘ill informed and politically inspired’, the criticisms for ordering NDTV India to go off air for a day for violating norms.
Speaking to reporters in Chennai, he said, “the belated criticism of the action proposed to be taken against NDTV India for violating the norms of live coverage of anti-terrorist operations by the security personnel in Pathankot in January this year is clearly ill informed and politically inspired. Such reactions that came a day after the Government’s decision was in public domain on November 3, 2016 was clearly an after thought, suggesting a motivated design to create a controversy where none existed.
People of the country should know that the UPA Government, during 2005-14, ordered several television channels to go off air in 21 instances, for a period ranging from one day to two months for showing obscene visuals including 13 cases of telecasting ‘Adult’ rated certified films when most of the children and the young would have been fast asleep. One channel was taken off air for 30 days for telecasting a sting operation, he said.
“People of the country are also wise enough to appreciate which of the two violations – showing obscene visuals at the stroke of midnight and risking the lives of defence personnel and civilians through a live telecast of anti-terrorist operations in broad day light- is a serious threat to the interests of the nation including it’s sovereignty, integrity and security.
The decision against NDTV India was not based on any newly invented rule and principle. The ground on which action has been proposed against NDTV India was only a logical conclusion of concerns clearly articulated by the UPA Government in various advisories issued after 26/11 terror attacks on multiple targets in Mumbai in 2008,” he said.
“In those several advisories issued by the UPA Government, all news and current affairs TV channels were clearly asked to exercise restraint, maturity and sensitivity while reporting on anti-terrorist operations in the larger interest of safety and security of security forces involved in such operations and civilians. Expressing concern over continued violations, the then UPA Government concluded that any coverage violating such norms amount to coverage against the interests of the nation.
NDA Government too issued a couple of such advisories and like the then UPA Government, noticed continued violations as in the case of Gurdaspur terrorist attack. As the Government is deeply committed to uphold the sovereignty, integrity and security of the country, particularly, in the context of cross border terrorism, issued a Gazette Notification in March this year requiring TV channels to limit live coverage of anti-terrorist operations to the briefings of designated officers, in the larger security interests involved. NDTV India, in this case has been found to have violated this provision and was found to be unrepentant about what they have done. This channel was also found to have resorted to similar violations earlier.
This decision, accordingly, was only a culmination of the larger security concerns being expressed since 2008 Mumbai terror attacks.
The Inter-Ministerial Committee (IMC) that recommended action against the channel did so after duly acknowledging the instant reach and power of television unlike other media and only recommended suspension of telecast just for one day as a token, so that the said channel can not get away completely for being even unrepentant in the matter.
The Editors Guild of India, a responsible organization that took a full day to come out with its response should realize that under Sub-section (2) of Section 20 of the Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act, 1995, Central Government is required to regulate or prohibit the transmission of any channel or programme in the interest of sovereignty, integrity and security of India and as per Para 8.1 of the Uplinking Guidelines, is empowered to take action for transmitting any objectionable content inconsistent with public interest. Therefore, the Government is not required to approach the Courts in such cases, as suggested by the Guild.
I leave it to the wisdom of the Editors Guild to ponder if the decision against NDTV India for the reasons explained, is really reminiscent of the dark days of emergency.
Several of the BJP leaders and a large number of activists were at the worst receiving end of emergency and would shudder to even think of doing the same to others and particularly, in respect of freedom of media.
The BJP and the NDA Government have the highest regard for media and the freedom of media and will never allow any infringement of it. Very recently, in an interaction with a leading news agency, I have stressed that effective self-regulation by media is the best way of protecting its freedom and we are committed to it. I also said that freedom is best upheld when its value is fully appreciated. In this case, that much valued freedom was not put to best use by NDTV India.
I am happy to note that the people of the country are broadly with the decision in the matter of NDTV India. Always, there will be a minority who are critical of whatever the Government does in the best interest of the country.”