The central government’s decision to ban Hindi news channel NDTV India for a day has been sharply criticised by observers, journalists and opposition parties alike.
This is the first time ever that a news channel has been barred from broadcasting for breaching national security laws in the country. While the government has defended the ban in the interest of national security, the Editors Guild of India has condemned it a violation of the freedom of media.
Amid all the outrage, there is still confusion over why the ban was imposed and under which law. Here is an explanation of some important aspects of the ban:
What does the ban entail?
The Information & Broadcasting ministry has passed an order to “prohibit the transmission or re-transmission of NDTV India channel for one day on any platform throughout India with effect from 00:01 hrs on 9th November,2016 till 00:01 hrs of 10th November, 2016”.
Why was NDTV India banned?
Sources in the Information &Broadcasting ministry say action was taken against the channel because it had revealed sensitive details, such as the location of the ammunition depot, school and residential areas in its coverage of the Pathankot attack. It also appeared to disclose the location of the attackers.
This crucial information could have been readily picked up by the terrorists’ handlers and jeopardised national security as well as the lives of civilians and defence personnel.
What does the law say?
Under Rule 6(1)(p) of the Cable TV Network (Regulation) Act, no programme should be carried in the cable service which contains live coverage of any anti-terrorist operation by security forces, wherein media coverage shall be restricted to periodic briefing by an officer designated by the appropriate government, till such operation concludes.
What was the process followed?
January 29: Showcause notice was issued to NDTV India for violation of Cable Act; they were asked to reply within 15 days.
February 5: The channel responded, submitting that the coverage was balanced and responsible.
July 25: Channel’s representatives were given a personal hearing before an Inter-Ministerial Committee (IMC).
November 2: The order announcing the ban was made public.
NDTV India can take legal recourse and appeal the ban.
What were the observations of the Inter-Ministerial Committee (IMC)?
The IMC, which includes joint secretaries home, defence, I&B, health and family welfare, consumer affairs, law and justice, external affairs, women and child development and representative of the Advertising Standards Council of India recommended that NDTV India be taken off-air for one day.
In its report to the Information & Broadcasting ministry, the IMC observed that disclosure of sensitive information has several ramifications such as causing alarm and de-moralisation of citizens and security forces, collateral damage to critical assets, apprehension among families of those serving in combat.