CHENNAI — Denouncing references to the Emergency in the context of the one-day ban on NDTV India channel, Information and Broadcasting minister Venkaiah Naidu on Saturday said the action against the Hindi news channel was taken in the interest of the “country’s safety and security”.
Addressing a press conference, he said the NDA government has the highest regard for freedom of media and politicisation of such issues will only affect the safety and security of the country.
He also slammed Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi for “talking about the dark days of Emergency”.
“I was surprised, aghast. Some people talked of Emergency-like situation. The action was taken in the interest of the country’s safety and security”, he said.
“I do not know how they are saying this is the first time. I read in a newspaper today that it is first time (that Government has issued a ban on a television channel). Shall I give the list of how many times channels were ordered to go off air?”, he asked.
Listing out the names of some of the channels that were banned in the past, he said, “AXN was banned for two months. FTV was banned for two months. Enter10 for one day. ABN AndhraJyoti seven days. Al Jazeera was banned for five days for showing wrong map of India.”
“These are all done earlier. Now they are saying it is done for the first time, murder of democracy, Emergency reminiscent and all”, he noted.
“People know what is good and what is bad and people understand what is required in the larger interest of the country. That is why I saw that people on social media supported the Government’s stand except some people who are not well informed”, he said.
“Politicisation of such issues will affect the safety and security of the country”, Naidu, who is in Chennai to attend a conference organised by Builders Association of India, said.
Maintaining that the Government was duty bound to act on such issues and does not require to approach the courts, he said, “I have to answer tomorrow in Parliament. I have to answer people tomorrow.”
“Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi is talking about dark days of Emergency. Do you know what is Emergency? Some people who were in the Congress at that time and now in different political parties also joined the chorus now because it has become a fashion. They just want to use each and every occasion to criticise the government and take the name of the Prime Minister for each and everything”, he said.
Naidu said the BJP-led NDA government has the highest regard for the freedom of media and would never allow any infringement of it.
“I will never allow any infringement of the freedom of the press. In this case, we have nothing against any particular channel…The government does it in the best interest of the country”, he said.
“Freedom of press is very important security and unity of the country is most important. That is how this government has taken this decision. Otherwise there is no reason”, he said.
The Minister said the reactions suggest a motivated design to create a controversy where none existed.
He asserted that people of the country should know that the UPA Governments, during 2005-14, ordered several TV channels to go off air in 21 instances, for a period ranging from one day to two months for showing obscene visuals including 13 cases of telecasting ‘Adult’ rated certified films.
One channel was taken off air for 30 days for telecasting a sting operation, he said.
“People of the country are also wise enough to appreciate which of the two violations showing obscene visuals at the stroke of midnight and risking the lives of defence personnel and civilians through a live telecast of anti-terrorist operations in broad daylight- is a serious threat to the interests of the nation including its sovereignty, integrity and security,” Naidu said.
The Minister said the decision against NDTV India was not based on any newly invented rule and principle.
“The ground on which action has been proposed against NDTV India was only a logical conclusion of concerns clearly articulated by the UPA Government in various advisories issued after 26/11 terror attacks on multiple targets in Mumbai in 2008,” he said.
Rejecting criticism that compared the present case to Emergency, Naidu said many BJP leaders and a large number of activists were at the “worst receiving end of Emergency and would shudder to even think of doing the same to others and particularly, in respect of freedom of media.”
Responding to criticism by Editors Guild of India, Naidu said, “The Editors Guild of India, a responsible organisation that took a full day to come out with its response should realise that under Sub-section (2) of Section 20 of the Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act, 1995, Central Government is required to regulate or prohibit the transmission of any channel or programme in the interest of sovereignty, integrity and security of India and as per Para 8.1 of Uplinking Guidelines, is empowered to take action for transmitting any objectionable content inconsistent with public interest.
Therefore, the Government is not required to approach the Courts in such cases, as suggested by the Guild, he added.
“I leave it to the wisdom of the Editors Guild to ponder if the decision against NDTV India for the reasons explained, is really reminiscent of the dark days of Emergency,” he said.
Naidu said that very recently in an interaction, he had stressed that effective self-regulation by media is the best way of protecting its freedom and we are committed to it.
“I also said that freedom is best upheld when its value is fully appreciated. In this case, that much valued freedom was not put to best use by NDTV India. I am happy to note that the people of the country are broadly with the decision in the matter of NDTV India,” he said.
Always, there will be a minority who are critical of whatever the Government does in the best interest of the country, Naidu added.
The minister also said that in several advisories issued by the previous UPA Government, all news and current affairs TV channels were clearly asked to exercise restraint, maturity and sensitivity while reporting on anti-terrorist operations in the larger interest of safety and security of security forces involved in such operations and civilians.
Expressing concern over continued violations, the then UPA Government concluded that any coverage violating such norms amount to coverage against the interests of the nation, he added.
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