India’s ministry of information and broadcasting said news channel NDTV India will be taken off air for 24 hours as a penalty for its coverage of an attack on Pathankot air force base earlier this year.
The ministry said the top Indian news channel’s coverage revealed "strategically-sensitive details". NDTV has denied the accusation, saying that its coverage was "particularly balanced."
The order of 24-hour blackout, which comes into effect starting 1 p.m. IST Nov. 9, has been criticized by many notable journalists in India, with some saying that ministry’s decision should be perceived as violation of freedom of press.
"The order of the MIB has been received. It is shocking that NDTV has been singled out in this manner. Every channel and newspaper had similar coverage," NDTV said in a statement. "In fact NDTV’s coverage was particularly balanced. After the dark days of the emergency when the press was fettered, it is extraordinary that NDTV is being proceeded against in this manner. NDTV is examining all options in this matter."
The ministry noted in its order that NDTV India’s coverage disclosed "ammunition stockpiled in the airbase, MiGs, fighter planes, rocket launchers, mortars, helicopters, fuel tanks which was likely to be used by the terrorists themselves or their handlers to cause massive harm not only to national security, international standing of the country but also life of civilians and defence personnel."
The Pathankot air force station was attacked on Jan. 2 earlier this year. Seven Indian soldiers and six militant were killed in the attack. India’s as well as foreign media had described the incident as terrorist attack.
Editors Guild of India, an organization of editors of newspapers and magazines in the country, has condemned the I&B Ministry’s decision. "The Editors Guild of India strongly condemns the unprecedented decision of the inter-ministerial committee of the Union Ministry of Information Broadcasting to take NDTV India off the air for a day and demands that the order be immediately rescinded."
"The decision to take the channel off the air for a day is a direct violation of the freedom of the media and therefore the citizens of India and amounts to harsh censorship imposed by the government reminiscent of the Emergency. This first-of-its-kind order to impose a blackout has seen the Central government entrust itself with the power to intervene in the functioning of the media and take arbitrary punitive action as and when it does not agree with the coverage," it said.
Editor’s guild is right in describing the one day blackout of NDTV India as a violation of press freedom. It is blatant censorship.
— M K Venu (@mkvenu1) November 4, 2016
How could the information be so sensitive that it actually reached a channel n got aired in the first place. #NDTVBan
— Vipin Sharma (@sharmamatvipin) November 4, 2016
Today it’s @ndtv tomorrow it’ll be you, urge the media to get together to vehemently oppose these undemocratic tendencies.#NDTVban
— Sanjay Arora (@chiefsanjay) November 4, 2016
Centre banned NDTV for a day. SC, Del Govt, DCW n now responsible media. Why is there an attack on institutions? V dangerous for democracy.
— Swati Maliwal (@SwatiJaiHind) November 4, 2016
The banning of NDTV India is a shocking flexing of govt muscle over free media. Don’t shoot the messenger!
— Sagarika Ghose (@sagarikaghose) November 3, 2016
NDTV banned???? Come on! When I last checked, India was still a democracy.
— Shobhaa De (@DeShobhaa) November 3, 2016
Govt’s one day ban on NDTV India is arbitrary and perhaps even malafide use of authority. NDTV must challenge this in court right away. 1/2
— Siddharth (@svaradarajan) November 3, 2016
One of India’s most sober and responsible channels NDTV India to be banned for a day by I and B ministry. NDTV today, who tomorrow?
— Rajdeep Sardesai (@sardesairajdeep) November 3, 2016