We strongly condemn the arbitrary and vindictive action by the Narendra Modi government, ordering the popular Hindi news broadcaster NDTV-India off the air for a twenty-four hour period. NDTV-India has been accused of violating a 2015 amendment to the cable TV rules, which obliged news broadcasters to restrict live reporting of anti-terrorism operations and confine themselves to facts revealed in “periodic” briefings by “designated” officials of the “appropriate” government.
There can be no more vaguely worded restraint than this on media reporting and the public right to know. Clearly, the intent here is to forcibly enforce the model of media irrationality and hyper-chauvinism that the Modi government has actively promoted ever since it assumed office. The alleged violations by NDTV-India, according to the official statement from an inquiry by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, include reporting that the terrorist intruders into the Pathankot air-base in January this year, had managed to approach the near vicinity of an arms depot.
We learn that an NDTV-India reporter allowed most proximate access to the operational theatre by security forces, mentioned the possibility of the terrorist intruders gaining access to the arms depot within the Pathankot air-base. The news broadcast then made the inference that if the task of neutralising would become more complicated if the terrorist intruders actually did gain access to the arms depot.
These points, we may be permitted to say, would be obvious to the meanest intelligence. To say that Indian media consumers should be deprived of this information because it could promote an alien terrorist enterprise is to insult them.NDTV-India is also accused of reporting the presence of a school and civilians on the airbase, not to mention revealing that there were strategic investments such as jet fighters within the Pathankot air-base.
Again, there is a gross insult to the awareness of the average Indian citizen here.
We reiterate that the Modi government’s vindictive action is an assault on the peoples’ right to know. We need hardly remind the public of the confused and chaotic response of the government after the first shots were fired in the terrorist intrusion in Pathankot. These included an ill-informed and unfounded statement from the Union Home Minister, Rajnath Singh, claiming that the attack had been repulsed, when there were still intruders alive within the air-base, adequately equipped to carry on their mission for another 36 hours.
We also remind the Modi government that clamping down on the media will not efface public memories of its monumental misstep in inviting a team from Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) to visit the Pathankot air-base in an obviously misguided effort at gaining international endorsement for India’s fight against terrorism.
An effective fight requires a strong domestic consensus. By attacking the media and the public right to know, the Modi government seriously undermines this possibility.