NDTV ban: Foreign journos speak out against order

NEW DELHI: Media organisations, including international ones, joined the chorus against the government’s move to ban NDTV India for a day. The Indian Broadcasting Foundation (IBF) and the Foreign Correspondents’ Club (FCC) of South Asia urged the government to reconsider its decision.

The statements condemning the move come close on the heels of industry bodies such as the Editors Guild of India, NBA and BEA backing NDTV India and News Time Assam.

NDTV India was asked to go off air for a day by the inter-ministerial committee for its coverage of the Pathankot terror attack this January.

It’s hard not to conclude that NDTV India was singled out, The Economist South Asia bureau chief Max Rodenbeck told TOI. “The channel did not seem to be doing anything differently than others. If the government felt that there have been violations, it should have been enough to warn them. Actions like these (banning a channel) cast a shadow on all of media.”

An FCC statement said: “The decision, taken 10 long months after the broadcast in question, violates freedom of the press in the world’s largest democracy that boasts of having the largest number of newspapers and TV news channels in the world.”

Both FCC and IBF, like other industry bodies and editors, felt that the issue should have been referred to the News Broadcasters Standards Authority (NBSA).The FCC statement added: “It’s not proper for a government committee to have the power to take a TV channel off air in such an arbitrary fashion. The FCC appeals to the government to withdraw its order immediately.”

In April last year, Al Jazeera TV was yanked off air for five days for depicting a wrong map of the country.

Referring to the NDTV ban, Al Jazeera bureau chief (India) Anmol Saxena said: “This poses a serious threat to freedom of information. A shackled media and sealed lips shouldn’t be the world’s largest democracy’s response to terrorism. While addressing any regulatory concerns regarding news organisations of repute like Al Jazeera or NDTV , the gov ernment must resort to institutional mechanisms.”

A senior journalist with an international newspaper, who didn’t wish to be named, said: “I think it’s fair to say foreign media (and diplomats) recognise that the Modi administration is testing new ground with its punishment of the media. This, combined with nationalist drum-beating tendencies of some of the louder networks, is concerning and unfortunate. If Republican nominee Donald Trump’s statements are any indication, this media bashing with patriotic rationalisation seems to be a global phenomenon.”