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Penalization of NDTV by the government

The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting has ordered a 24 hour ban on the TV channel NDTV. It is being penalized for the inconvenient live reportage of Pathankot incident. According to Cable Television Networks (Amendment) Rules, 2015, “live coverage of any anti-terrorist operation by security forces ” is prohibited and the media coverage is restricted to “periodic briefing” by a designated officer “till such operation concludes”. It is still unclear if the penalization of the channel is for  live coverage  or just  reportage . Alleging violation of these rules and broadcasting of “crucial information”, thus, compromising national security, the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting has imposed the penalty on the channel.  Under Section 20 of the Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act, the Central government is empowered to “regulate or prohibit the transmission or re-transmission of any channel or programme” if it is necessary “in the interest of the sovereignty, integrity or security of India, friendly relations with any foreign State or public order, decency or morality.” The Article 19(1)(a)  of  the Constitution guarantees the right of the media to report news with “reasonable restrictions”. But it remains unclear if as to how has the channel s coverage undermined the interests of the security of the state, the sovereignty and integrity of India and friendly relations with foreign states? Does the executive power to stop transmission of news, in absence of imposition of Emergency stand judicial scrutiny? Is it right for the government to usurp the powers of courts based on its own biased subjective interpretation? The media as fourth pillar of democracy should be allowed to remain a watchdog. And the interpretation of “national interest” should be left to the courts.

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