GOVT COMPLAINANT, ADJUDICATOR AND EXECUTIONER AGAINST MEDIA

pathankot-air-force-after-the-attack Pathankot Air-Force- base after attack[/caption] India Today Editor-in-Chief Aroon Purie said “Banning channels dangerous weapon in hands of government. Should respect well-established self regulation”. Another well known TV anchor Anchal Vohra tweeted : “NDTV india is by far the sanest Hindi news channel that has stuck to journalistic values when many others won’t. Banning it is shameful”. Thus, there was near unanimity that the punishment awarded to the NDTV was unjust and without any evidence in hand that its coverage had compromised national security. Perhaps the punishment was just a signal and warning to others in the media to be careful and toe the government’s line. While there can be no two opinions about the need for the safety and security of our armed forces personnel, particularly during a terrorist attacked, the manner in which the government singled out a channel and imposed a harsh penalty is condemnable. What is particularly jarring is the fact that the ‘punishment’ has been imposed by an inter-ministerial committee which came to the conclusion that the channel was guilty and should be punished. Such arbitrary decisions, particularly involving media, should not be left to the whims and fancies of politicians and bureaucrats. Investigations in cases where any section of media is charged with violating the law, should be done by the professionals or the courts. Ideally the government should have referred the issue to the independent self regulatory body, the News Broadcasting Standards Authority (NBSA) or filed a petition in the courts. Hopefully the Supreme Court, which has held out hope, would come out with guidelines and would not leave such decisions to politicians or bureaucrats. Perhaps the scope of the Press Council of India, formed in 1978, should be enlarged to include electronic media and it be rechristened Media Council of India and given more powers. The government, which has put the ban on hold till the ministry’s decision is reviewed following a request by the channel, must withdraw it completely. After all it is illogical and unfair for the government to be the complainant as well as the adjudicator and also the executioner. // ]]>