[dropcap]N[/dropcap]DTV India, a leading Hindi news channel, has been asked to go off air for 24 hours by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Government of India, comprising committee, for its coverage on Pathankot attacks. According to the committee, the channel allegedly revealed “strategically-sensitive information” during the course of its coverage of the anti-terror operations at the Pathankot airbase earlier this year. The government order has received criticism from various corners. This gesture of government showed that an “emergency-like situation” prevailed in the country. Why media has to be banned, and what is going to be achieved in one day ban? If the government had issues with Pathankot coverage, there are provisions available. However, ban shows an emergency-like attitude. Being a journalist, I strongly criticise the ban imposed on NDTV India and demanding that the decision should be withdrawn immediately. Freedom of Speech is vital, not just for the media but for everyone. The coverage done by NDTV is similar as other media houses but since BJP came to power this channel was on hit list of Government for its brutally honest reporting. Many News channels have turned into puppets and behaving like BJP’s mouthpiece. Recently, out of suffocation, Arnab Goswami left his channel by rendering a message, no one can supress independent journalism, and this is just the beginning.
The moment BJP came to power, Mr. and Mrs. Rajdeep Sardesai had become first ever victims. They had to resign due to pressure and humiliation. Modi support group on social media made it very much difficult for them, the random abuses and attack on their integrity, changed the scenario. The whole idea of Freedom of Speech is that this prevents the government from doing anything they want. It prevents outrages. On the run for TRP and commercialization of news, some media are serving irrelevant contents to viewers. Freedom of Speech is required because it usually gives you both sides of the issue. But why is it important for the media especially? It gives them creative freedom and allows them to actually make a difference to the nation, society and world at large.
Lets come back to the topic, according to the statement by the NDTV group in it defence says, “NDTV has maintained that its coverage was “sober,” was in the “public domain” and was not different from any information that had been covered by the rest of the media. Even PTI and other news publications and channels gave similar coverage. There were legal provisions available to both the Centre and the state to take action against any irresponsible media coverage but to define illegality government should punish every media house equally.” Why target particular channel as personal vendetta? Today, it is NDTV tomorrow it can be any news channel, what this government is trying to prove? NDTV refuted the allegations and said its coverage on Pathankot was ‘fairly balanced’ unlike most other news channels. 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. In fact, NDTV’s coverage was particularly balanced. 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.
This is an attack on media sovereignty. Unfortunately, modern politics has come to a stature where ruling politicians are not as much afraid of the opposition/minority in the House as much as they are of the media. As Lord Acton had said, “Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Media is a BIG obstacle between politicians and absolute power. If the freedom of speech of media is controlled, it could have far reaching adverse effects for any democracy’s well-functioning. This is the first time such an order has been issued against a TV channel over its coverage of a terror attack under norms which were notified last year. The Editors’ Guild of India also issued a statement condemning I&B ministry’s actions and said the order to take the channel off for a day is a violation of the freedom of press in the country. However, this is a thick skinned government and will not bother about the criticism and will try to chock the voices of those media houses which are unbiased.
Freedom of Speech allows for dialogues to occur. That’s really what it is. Discussion and debate put the difference of opinions and views which help society to move forward. It means to share your opinion, and in turn, listen to other people’s opinions. Once there is an active flow of speaking and listening, well informed decisions can be made. Autonomy of media is important for the working of a true function in the system of democracy. It is the fourth pillar of democracy. People through media can express their views, descent with the government and public. Due to media, several social problems can be solved and people can be aware of the problems existing in the society and can address them if they can. Without Freedom of Speech, there would be no self-determination of the press and without independence of press social media and other media are pointless. You would never be able to view anything or published without government consent. You can’t fully express your opinion or report facts while you are being censored. It’s darn near impossible. At that point, you may as well be a puppet and work according to the government willingness?
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