I&B ministry to punish ‘NDTV India’ for compromising national security?

The NDTV media group has become infamous for getting into a variety of controversies, chief of which are allegations of it reporting fake news. It has also recently met an adversary in former employee Barkha Dutt, who has levelled allegations about the channel censoring news stories. Barkha has also claimed that corporate lobbyist Nira Radia helped the channel financially. Now its promoters Prannoy and Radhika Roy too have suffered a blow in form of the Income Tax provisionally attaching their shares in NDTV.

If this wasn’t enough, its Hindi channel “NDTV India” has in the past been accused of compromising India’s national security.

In November we had reported how NDTV India was was given a token 1 day ban for its reporting of the January, 2016 Pathankot attack.

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Soon after the terror attack, the Information and Broadcasting ministry had set-up an Inter-ministerial committee which had expressed grave concerns about the channel revealing sensitive details like location of ammunition depot, the place where terrorists were held up and location of school and residential areas. We in an exclusive report had later also reported the exact reasons for ban, which were damning to say the least.

In order to fight the ban, the channel knocked on the doors of the Supreme Court after which the I&B ministry put the token ban on hold. The case has since then largely languished in the courts but can erupt again in the next 24 hours if journalists and sources are to be believed.

Today Abhijit Majumder, the Managing Editor of Mail Today dropped a bombshell on Facebook that a “leading channel” is likely to be taken off air for 15 days for breaching national security norms. He further wrote that the action was being taken on the basis of policy guidelines which were brought in by the UPA government in December, 2011.

As per him, the channel had violated clause 6.1 of the policy which states that permission granted shall be revoked if the channel is found to transmit content inconsistent with public interest or national security. 

He later indicated the identity of the channel by writing that:

This action is apparently being taken after previous I&B minister Venkaiah Naidu asked the channel for a representation after it, in the government’s view, seriously compromised national security while covering a terror attack.
Government sources said while the channel kept informally regretting the coverage, no representation was made.
The channel instead moved court and told SC that it would not apologise for the coverage and it was under no such breach.

A couple of sources in the ministry we talked to, confirmed that NDTV India is likely to go off air. As per our sources, the channel didn’t give a satisfactory answer and also refused to apologise which is supposed to have prompted this possible ban.

If this news indeed turns out to be true, it might be a clear statement by the I&B ministry that news channels need to be extra careful while reporting content regarding national security.

This incident has also raised certain legal questions. Firstly, can the government come up with such an executive order when the case regarding the matter is pending with the Supreme Court. That is, can the channel be punished unless the current proceedings are over or would the channel again be successful in getting a stay on the order like it did in the previous case?

We would get the answers in the coming days…

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