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NDTV: Shooting the Messenger

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NDTV India ban evokes some bad memories

dilip-bobb

 

By Dilip Bobb

 

There is some awkward irony in what Prime Minister Narendra Modi said at the Indian Express Ramnath Goenka journalist award function, and what his government initiated barely a day later. At the Express event, Modi had waxed eloquent on the role of the press and this telling phrase—“We need to reflect on the Emergency so no leader dare repeat it.” A day later, his government repeats what was the hallmark of the Emergency—shutting down media outlets that were critical of, or embarrassed, the powers that be. NDTV, the target of the Centre’s ire, has been ordered to shut shop for 24 hours, an unprecedented action in non-Emergency India, for allegedly showing footage of the Pathankot attack which could have compromised security and put lives in danger. This is a draconian step by any standards, and more suited to times of war. Unless the government believes they are at war, presumably with Pakistan, to resort to such a move is nothing but an attack on independent media.

For one, I watched all channels during the period that the attack was being telecast live by every news channel. NDTV’s coverage was no different from the other leading channels, if anything it was less hysterical. What it did was describe exactly what sort of weaponry and ammunition was stored inside the base and how it could affect lives and the operation underway to eliminate the terrorists. That is hardly tantamount to being anti-national, as the government’s directive seems to suggest. The Editors Guild has rightly condemned the move and in demanding that the directive be withdrawn.  As someone who was a journalist with independent media during the Emergency, this brings back some bad memories of those dark days. 

Lead Image: A grab of NDTV India’s coverage of the Pathankot airbase terrorist strike. Photo: YouTube

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