The one-day ban on leading Hindi TV channel ‘NDTV India’ over its coverage of the Pathankot attack drew sharp condemnation on Friday from the Opposition and the media, which called it “shocking and authoritarian” and reminiscent of Emergency days.
The leaders of the non-BJP parties and the media bodies demanded immediate withdrawal of the order imposing the blackout on November 9.
There was also a suggestion by Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal and senior Congress leader Digvijay Singh that all newspapers and channels “show courage” and “go off air and not publish” on that day to register their protest.
“I hope the whole media goes off air for a day in solidarity wid NDTV. Congratulations to Editors Guild for showing courage to stand up against Modi Govt’s dictatorship,” Kejriwal tweeted.
The Editors Guild of India condemned the order as a “direct violation” of the freedom of the press, and similar sentiments were echoed by the Broadcast Editors’ Association (BEA).
“The Editors Guild of India strongly condemns the unprecedented decision of the inter-ministerial committee of the Union ministry of information and broadcasting to take NDTV India off the air for a day and demands that the order be immediately rescinded,” the Guild said in a statement.
“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.”
The BEA expressed deep concern at the government’s decision and said imposing the ban was a violation of freedom of expression.
NDTV, while terming the order as “shocking”, said it has been “singled out” and that it was examining all options in the matter.
“Detaining opposition leaders, blacking out tv channels- all in a day’s work in Modiji’s India... NDTVBanned-shocking and unprecedented (sic),” the Congress vice-president said on Twitter.
Senior Congress leader Ahmed Patel, who is also political secretary to party president Sonia Gandhi, said, “(The) government’s decision to ban NDTV India smacks of authoritarianism and intimidation.”
Former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Omar Abdullah too lashed out at the Centre, asking if these were the promised “achhe din (good days)”.
West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee said the order of the inter-ministerial panel of the information and broadcasting ministry showed that an Emergency-like situation prevailed in the country while Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi slammed it as “shocking and unprecedented”.
“NDTV ban is shocking. If the government had issues with its Pathankot coverage, there are provisions available. But a ban shows an Emergency-like attitude,” Banerjee said in a statement in Kolkata.