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Ban on NDTV India: It’s like the days of Emergency, says opposition

Ban on NDTV India: It’s like the days of Emergency, says opposition

NEW DELHI: The Opposition and the government look to be heading for a confrontation on the one-day ban imposed on Hindi news channel NDTV India for allegedly compromising national security during the coverage of the Pathankot terror attack. A day after an inter-ministerial committee of the I&B ministry asked the channel to go off air on November 9, the ban order was greeted with a chorus of protests from opposition parties as well as media bodies like the Editors’ Guild and the Broadcast Editors’ Association of India (BEA). Opposition leaders — from Rahul Gandhi to Mamata Banerjee and Arvind Kejriwal — accused the government of being authoritarian. An agency report quoted the Delhi CM and Congress’s Digvijay Singh suggesting that TV channels and newspapers should show courage and cease their operations for a day to register their protest. BJD and CPI also joined the chorus of condemnation which targeted PM Narendra Modi for his allegedly authoritarian ways. Rahul Gandhi slammed the order as “shocking and unprecedented”, while the West Bengal CM termed it reminiscent of the Emergency. Editors’ Guild and BEA said the decision was violative of the principle of freedom of expression. Demanding that the order be rescinded, the Editors’ Guild said, “The decision to take the channel off air for a day is a direct violation of the freedom of the media and therefore the citizens of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.” NDTV repeated its charge that it had been singled out, adding that it was exploring all options to get around.
However, the onslaught failed to get either BJP or the government to relent. BJP national secretary Shrikant Sharma justified the decision by saying that national security could not be allowed to be compromised. High-level NDA functionaries accused Congress of hypocrisy and opportunism stating that 21 channels were taken off for varying durations under the UPA. They stuck to their charge against the channel that it committed a grave error by highlighting in their live telecast of the Pathankot terror attack, locations of sensitive assets like fuel dumps and aircraft as well as vulnerable civilian targets like schools and residential quarters of services with regard to their distance from two of the terrorists who were still holed up inside the airbase. Ahmed Patel, political secretary to Congress president Sonia Gandhi, said, “The government’s decision smacks of authoritarianism and intimidation.” BJP secretary Sharma said, “We are a democracy and we believe in freedom of the press, but the nation comes first.” He said Congress, which muzzled the press for 19 months during the Emergency and brought the Defamation Bill, was not eligible to speak for freedom of expression.

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