NDTV has had a complicated relationship with Indian national interests for a long time. Journalists associated with the channel have received the endorsement of terrorists and the Pakistani government that uses terrorism as a state policy against India. In this article, we look at instances when the anti-India reportage and statements made by NDTV journalists have been at odds with Indian national interests.
Following the Pulwama terror attack, in an interview given to German media house Deutsche Welle (DW), Ravish Kumar had said that Indian TV channels are not reporting the conflict, but using the conflict to increase the prospect of the ruling party in the upcoming elections. And the Pakistani media had started to use this as a proof that India is pushing for a war with Pakistan.
Ravish Kumar said that Indian media should concentrate on issues like unemployment, and not on Pakistan sponsored terrorism, because that may help BJP in the general elections. Indian media often act as activists, taking a side in various issues instead of plain reporting, but media should not take anti‑terror position as it may benefit BJP, he had stated.
People have long believed that Barkha Dutt’s coverage of the Kargil War had compromised Indian interests. It has been alleged that her reportage exposed Indian military positions. Here is the relevant part from a book titled “Kargil: Turning the Tide” written by Lt Gen Mohinder Puri that makes the same argument.
The sight of the artillery rounds falling on the objective made an awesome scene which remains etched in my memory till date. It has started raining lightly by the time I reached the ops room of HQ 192 Mtn Bde, and as the night progressed, the rain fell heavily and all our thoughts were for the men going in for the attack. At Tiger Hill it was snowing.
At about 2120 hours, the exchange operator gave a ring in the ops room asking for me. The Corps Cdr had wanted to speak to me urgently. When the call got connected, all in the ops room could make out that something serious was being discussed between us. On finishing, I looked at Col SVE David, Deputy Cdr of 56 Mtn Bde, who was also present, and asked him to find out if Barkha Dutt of NDTV, then Star Plus/News Channel, was anywhere in the vicinity or amongst the media witnessing the artillery fire on Tiger Hill.
We soon discovered that the young lady was giving a live commentary on the attack on Tiger Hill sitting right next to brigade traffic check post in Drass. I met her and after a few words of advice from me, she was told to proceed to an underground room and rest for the night. So much for secrecy of an operation! I had only informed the Corps Cdr of the date of the operation and he in turn for reasons of secrecy had not even informed the Army Cdr. Hence the surprise and concern over Barkha’s reporting.
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.
Nidhi Sethi, Deputy News Editor of NDTV, had posted a comment on Facebook which seemed to glorify the terror attack by Jaish-e-Muhammad. She had written, “where a grisly 44 has been proven to be greater than the mythical 56”. With this, she had added a hashtag #HowstheJaish, a take on the famous dialogue ‘How’s the Josh’ from the recent movie Uri: The Surgical Strike. She was later suspended by NDTV.
The Supreme Court was hearing a petition on the article 35-A. An NDTV report, titled “Police revolt in Kashmir if top court scraps article 35-A, Agencies warn”, had claimed that they had learned from ‘intelligence agencies’ that there was going to be an ‘internal revolt’ and massive unrest in Kashmir if the Supreme Court passed any ‘adverse order’ regarding article 35-A. The claim was not backed by any name or fact.
In the short interview of the Jammu and Kashmir DGP SP Vaid that aired, an NDTV reporter was seen asking DGP Vaid about the possibility of such a revolt. DGP Vaid asserts that the Jammu Kashmir police is a valiant and honourable force and for them, duty comes first.
The reporter went ahead to twist the question and asked what if there is actually a revolt within the ranks of the J&K police, to which the DGP explicitly states that he did not see any possibility of any such thing. He further asserted that every resident of the state might have a view, including himself, but for police officers, duty comes first and the order of the Supreme Court will be honoured by all. Despite the express denial of the DGP, NDTV ran the sensationalist headline and crafted the entire news report about the ‘claims of revolt’, without any substantiation.
Pakistan’s ruling party PTI has endorsed NDTV’s reportage on the abrogation of Articles 370 and 35A by sharing a video clip from one of their shows where they claim the people of Kashmir are waiting for the curfew to lift so they can ‘show’ India what they feel, hinting violence and riots.
In the video clip from NDTV that PTI shared, a reporter, apparently reporting from Srinagar, claimed that he and his team had met an old, blind man earlier that day. According to the reporter, the old man was being helped to cross the road and he had expressed his desire to speak about the current situation.
The reporter further stated that the old man said, “New Delhi is saying everybody in Kashmir is happy about making Jammu and Kashmir a UT. Let them lift the curfew and they will know how happy we are”. Curiously, the journalist, who obviously has had access to camera and communication, did not show the said old man. He just claimed that an old man has said so.
Sonia Singh, an Editorial Director in NDTV, had posted a column – taken from her Keynote Address at UNESCO, India to observe World Press Freedom Day – on NDTV’s website. In the article headlined “Let Journalism Thrive – Television and Media Freedom“, she talks about freedom, challenges, choices, threats and violence associated with Press in India. Sonia talks about her journey from 1992, discusses evolution and proliferation of private channels in India, talks about World Press Freedom Index, and then quotes selective examples and scenarios to insinuate the press is in danger in India.
Sonia uses patches of emotional spin smartly to peddle her propaganda. While talking about indirect censorship techniques used by corporates and government, she abruptly mentioned Gajendra Singh and glorifies his suicide story as a struggling saga of poor farmers faced in India: “So, sadly, yes, a farmer has to travel to Jantar Mantar to commit suicide to get his voice heard.”