ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Insidious Censorship

The ban on NDTV India should ring warning bells about the future.

A state of emergency can be directly imposed or it can creep up on you in unexpected ways. Following the Narendra Modi government’s decision to ban the Hindi news channel NDTV India for an entire day (now put on hold) as punishment for its coverage of the terror attack on the Pathankot military base, the question being asked is whether the cumulative actions of this government reflect the same mentality that led Indira Gandhi to impose a state of emergency in 1975—an inability to tolerate opposition or dissent. Then too, as now, “national security” was being invoked to curtail constitutionally guaranteed freedoms and human rights.

The government justifies its action against NDTV India on the grounds that its coverage of the Pathankot anti-terror operation gave away vital information that could have been used by those directing the attack on the military base. It claims the channel contravened rule 6(1)(p) of the programme code under the Cable Television Networks (Amendment) Rules, 2015 that states: “No programme should be carried in the cable services which contains live coverage of anti-terrorist operation by security forces, wherein media coverage shall be restricted to periodic briefings by an officer designated by the appropriate government, till such operation concludes.” Punishment for contravening this rule can be a broadcast blackout extending up to 30 days. Although the rule states that there can be no coverage barring periodic official briefings, the majority of news channels covered Pathankot live and did not wait for official briefings. So why was NDTV India singled out?

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