On 3rd November 2016, an inter-ministerial committee of the Information & Broadcasting (I&B) ministry had recommended a token one day ban over NDTV India for its coverage of the Pathankot terror attack, which took place in January 2016.
As exclusively reported by us here, NDTV India received this punishment from the I&B ministry for its live coverage of the anti-terror operations via which the channel gave away sensitive information about the Pathankot airbase, like the details of ammunition stockpiled in the airbase, MIGs, fighter planes, rocket launchers, mortars, helicopters, fuel tanks, etc., which could have been misused by the terrorists to cause grave harm to the airbase and the people inside it.
The Venkaiah Naidu led I&B ministry later suspended the ban after the Supreme Court decided to hear NDTV appeal against the ban. In one of the hearings of that case in the Supreme Court, on 24th March, lawyer Harish Salve who appeared for the NDTV came up with an apology statement, which was deemed too generic by Attorney General Mukul Rohtagi who appeared on the behalf of the I&B ministry.
The statement which Salve reportedly came up with was,
“NDTV is a very responsible media organization. We regret the unfortunate incident which occurred”
Rohtagi also suggested that the statement should be tweaked, so that it was evident that it was in the nature of an apology. Salve later suggested a statement which read, ”we regret the controversy that led to the incident” which too was not appreciated by the AG.
The next hearing is scheduled on Friday 31st march when the NDTV will respond if it agrees to the modifications suggested by the Government.
Maybe NDTV fears that issuing a clear apology would lead to an open admittance of its guilt, which might spur people to further raise questions as to whether it deliberately indulged in such a form of coverage.
NDTV is not new to such controversies and earlier it was accused of being irresponsible while covering the Mumbai terror attacks of 2008. Then its English channel’s controversial journalist Barkha Dutt was criticised, which led her to send a legal notice to one such blogger critic. Barkha had been embroiled in a similar controversy during Kargil war too, and a recent book confirmed that her reporting was a cause for concern for the Army.
Perhaps that’s why Barkha Dutt, who has now left NDTV, is extra careful that people don’t link the latest incident with her. On Twitter, while responding to a tweet, she clarified that it was the Hindi NDTV that was guilty this time:
@utkarsh_aanand the Hindi channel btw
— barkha dutt (@BDUTT) March 25, 2017