Former Supreme Court judge Markandey Katju has joined the chorus in condemning the one-day ban on Hindi news channel NDTV India for airing “strategically sensitive details” during the Pathankot terror attack.
The first-of-its-kind order has imposed a blackout prohibiting “the transmission or re-transmission of NDTV India channel for one day on any platform throughout India with effect from 00:01 hrs on 9th November to 00:01 hrs of 10th November”.
He wrote on his blog ‘Satyam Bruyat‘ that he spoke to Ravish Kumar of NDTV, and told him that the one day ban on NDTV was illegal.
He said it was because Rule 6(1)(p) of the Programme Code of the Cable TV Network Rules, 1994 under which the ban was imposed states – ” No programme should be carried in the cable service which contains live coverage of any anti-terrorist operation by security forces, wherein media coverage shall be restricted to periodic briefing by an officer designated by the appropriate Government…, till such operation concludes ”
— Markandey Katju (@mkatju) November 5, 2016
“Thus, the ban is on showing ‘ live coverage ‘ of anti terrorist operations by the security forces. Live coverage means showing scenes of security forces searching or pursuing terrorists, or fighting with them,” he wrote.
He said mere reporting about anti terrorist operations is not live coverage and NDTV had only reported about anti terrorist operations, but had not shown any scenes of security forces chasing or fighting with terrorists.
Earlier, union minister Venkaiah Naidu justified the ban saying it was in the interest of the nation. “This action of asking a TV (channel) to go off one day is in the interest of the country’s safety and security,” Mr Naidu, who is the Information and Broadcasting minister, said.
A section of country’s top editors and press groups ranging from the Editors Guild of India to the Broadcast Editors Association have demanded to revoke the ban saying it amounts to “harsh censorship” and a blatant violation of the freedom guaranteed to the press by the constitution.
The Mumbai Press Club said that a ban against “a specific TV channel that has been critical of the government, and has done serious ground reporting on the views of the common man, does not augur well for freedom of expression of the country.”
According to Naidu the “belated criticism of the action is clearly ill informed and politically inspired.”