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Freedom of press thrown out of the window –  A one day ban on NDTV  India

The BJP government, through its Information and Broadcasting ministry’s inter-ministerial committee has imposed a one day ban on the popular Hindi news channel (on November 9th) as punishment for releasing sensitive information about the Pathankot air base in Punjab.

The telecast, the order states, referred to the “ammunition stockpiled in the airbase, MiGs, fighter planes, rocket launchers, mortars, helicopters, fuel tanks which was likely to be used by the terrorists themselves or their handlers to cause massive harm not only to national security, international standing of the country but also life of civilians and defence personnel.”

Reacting to the one day black out of a much seen news channel, the Editors Guild of India said : “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.” They demanded an urgent withdrawal of the ban.

pathankotThis action by the government raises serious questions on the real reason behind this unilateral harsh punishment. The reasons were not just the reportage of Pathankot episode where on the night of 31 December, at least six terrorists crossed the border  and then sneaked into the high-security air base without any restrictions. This was reported in all channels. If we watch our visual media closely, one realizes soon that they are  all  airing the same news and  more or less saying the same things.

But why was NDTV India singled out? It is the tone and pitch of reporting that matters. While channels like Times Now and News X were screaming their heads off about the Pakistani hand before actual evidence, NDTV took the time to question the poor security in such an important airbase. It was only trying to be more level headed and serious in its reporting, more professional in its journalistic analysis. It must be recalled that NDTV has also done indepth analysis on sensitive issues like the real nature  of “gau rakshaks,” exposing their criminal nature.

Looks  like serious news is no longer safe. The days of  remaining neutral are over.

-UDAAN

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