The Modi government plans to create a ‘mechanism’ to ensure live and intense media coverage of 26/11-style terror attacks does not endanger national security without trampling media freedom, minister of state for information and broadcasting Rajyavardhan Rathore told HT.
The minister said informal interactions had already begun and there was a possibility that formal consultations with the media could begin soon. “How to create a faster mechanism to say this event needs delayed broadcast and is self regulated, that’s ideal for us,” the minister said.
Citing the 26/11 Mumbai attacks, the home ministry had recently asked the information and broadcasting (I&B) ministry to amend the programme code under the Cable Television Network Rules to ban live coverage.
While major news television channels agree that coverage of such attacks could undermine anti-terror operations in certain contexts, balancing national security and free speech could still be tricky.
“Security forces should decide the no-go zones during such events. We already have internal guidelines for such things now. But what are the guarantees that the new mechanism will not be misused because media’s commitment is to the people,” NK Singh, general secretary of the Broadcast Editors’ Association, told HT.
Media representatives said there were many potential problem areas, such as the kind of restrictions to be imposed and incidents that would be categorised as extraordinary. “The media realised during 26/11 that there was an error. Main input for any organisation is information and if we show it live, we are helping terrorists. But the bottom line is that there is freedom of press and we maintain security of the country. Now there’s much that needs to be done,” Rathore said.