In a big setback for NDTV India channel, an inter-ministerial committee of the Information and Broadcasting (I&B) ministry has recommended that the popular Hindi news channel be penalised for revealing ‘sensitive’ information, telecast in real time, about the security forces during its coverage of the Pathankot terrorist attack. With the panel submitting its report to the ministry, the next step in the process is for it to ask NDTV India channel to go off air for a day on November 9.
If this comes to transpire, it will be the first ever such order passed and implemented against a TV channel. As the content appeared to be violative of the programming norms, a show cause notice was issued to NDTV India.
It may be recalled that when terrorists attacked Pathankot base in January, 2016 the channel covered the tragic event comprehensively and the panel said that ‘crucial information’ made freely available on TV could have been used to inflict further damage on Indian security forces and installations. According to the panel, this could well have “cause(d) massive harm not only to the national security, but also to lives of civilians and defence personnel.”
Among the compromised installations were stockpiles of ammunition in the airbase, MIGs, fighter-planes, rocket-launchers, mortars, helicopters, fuel-tanks and more. The panel added, this ‘was likely to be used by the terrorists or their handlers to cause massive harm’.
Considering that the matter concerned national security, the panel wanted action to be taken to ensure this does not happen again. The panel underlined the crucial nature of the case by saying, “Such crucial information could have been readily picked by their handlers, which had the potential to cause massive harm not only to the national security, but also to lives of civilians and defence personnel.”
NDTV India had then said that this was ‘subjective interpretation’. It added that most of the information that it was telecasting was already available in public, not just in print, but also electronic and social media. NDTV India has not reacted to the recommendations in the panel report.