A television news channel, NDTV India, was banned for a day on November 9th 2016 by The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting in India.
This was the first time a news channel was banned by the union government. NDTV India was guilty of revealing sensitive information relating to national defence, putting national security at risk.
According to the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, NDTV India’s coverage of the terrorist attack on the Pathankot airbase in Punjab revealed sensitive information that could be used by the militants to resist counter operations carried on by the army.
However, television and news channels are strictly prohibited to cover live any anti terrorist operations carried on by the security forces. NDTV India was accused of broadcasting the location of militants during their attack on Pathankot Airbase in Punjab. They also broadcasted live information relating to supposed positions of militants, location of army personnel, weapons and ammunition available with the security forces along with the location of arms and other sensitive installations.
Allegedly, NTDV India favoured the militants as they were getting live updates about all the necessary information relating to the security forces. Many of the security forces were killed due to this unwise coverage of Pathankot attack.
Interestingly, this is not the first time NDTV India was accused of revealing key sensitive information. NDTV and its consulting editor Barkha Dutt, who became a common name for her extremely detailed coverage of the Kargil war, was accused of some serious folly during their Kargil coverage resulting in the death of many army personnel. Also, during the traumatic 11/26 Mumbai terror attacks, NDTV was criticized for their “Live” coverage revealing the locations of hostages on national television and ultimately to the terrorists.
On the other hand, NDTV India refused to accept any such alleged disclosure of sensitive information in their broadcast. NDTV India said all the sensitive information it is accused of revealing were already available on public domains.
The Editors Guild of India criticized this decision by the union government calling it a slight on their freedom of expression and terming it an Undeclared Emergency. Many media houses, journalists and members opposition parties also expressed their disapproval of this decision and called it a violation of freedom of the media.
The ban took place on November 9th 2016. There were huge outcries as to why the ban was being imposed months after the alleged broadcast.
Shortly after the announcement of imposing ban on NDTV India, government of India announced sudden demonetisation, declaring the current currency notes of ₹500 and ₹1000 illegal with effect from the midnight of November 8th 2016. Some close political observers are now of the opinion that this ban as a ploy to distract observers and media to carry out the instructions for demonetisation announcement smoothly in complete secrecy.
To sum it up, the NDTV India ban received mixed responses with some calling it a violation of freedom of media and some believing it to be a good warning for NDTV and other media houses as well regarding ‘careful’ broadcasting.
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