MUMBAI: Concerned about the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting’s (MIB) show-cause notices to Aaj Tak, ABP News and NDTV 24×7, the Broadcast Editors’ Association (BEA) today said that it would take up the issue with the government.
The BEA said that there is a tendency among governments, both at the centre and in some states, to serve notices on media organisations in a selective manner. The BEA today called for an executive committee meeting to discuss the matter.
In a statement, the apex body of editors of Indian news channels said that the MIB’s show-cause notice to the three news channels is based on a questionable pretext that their coverage of Yakub Memon’s death sentence amounted to contempt of the President as well as the judiciary.
“The BEA has decided to take up this issue with the government,” the statement read.
The MIB had issued show-cause notices to Aaj Tak, ABP News and NDTV 24×7 for allegedly disrespecting the judiciary and the President of India through their coverage of the hanging of 1993 Mumbai blast convict Yakub Memon.
The BEA also expressed concern over the Cable Television Networks (Amendment) Rules, 2015 that limits the media coverage of anti-terrorist operations to ‘periodic briefings’ by an officer ’till such operation concludes’.
“This amended rule does not mention (1) what constitutes a terrorist operation as different from any other encounter, (2) at what stage should the government notify the nature of incident to the media, and (3) does it mean restriction on only airing of the operation ’till such operation is over’ or does it deny the right to cover the incident per se,” the statement said.
While the BEA does not believe in live visual coverage of terror incidents, it does believe that media coverage cannot be restricted to official briefings. However, there are numerous self-regulatory guidelines regarding coverage of terror incidents.
The BEA also decided to take up the defamation notices issued by the Rajasthan government to Times Now and privilege proceedings initiated by the UP Assembly against Aaj Tak.
Those present in the extended executive committee and general body meeting included Shazi Zaman (ABP News Network), NK Singh, Arnab Goswami (Times Now), Supriya Prasad (Aaj Tak), Milind Khandekar (ABP News Network), Rajnish Ahuja (ABP News Network) Ajit Anjum (India TV), Satish K.Singh (Live India), Vinay Tewari (India Today Television), Rahul Kanwal (TV Today), V.V.P. Sharma (CNN-IBN), Senior Journalists Qamar Waheed Naqvi, Shailesh Kumar, Abhijeet Das, and Amitabh.
The MIB has asked Aaj Tak, ABP News and NDTV 24×7 to explain within 15 days why action should not be taken against them for broadcasting such content.
Aaj Tak and ABP News had aired phone-in interviews of underworld don Chhota Shakeel in which he claimed that injustice was done to Yakub Memon. Shakeel had also called Yakub’s hanging as ‘a legal murder’.
NDTV 24×7 has been pulled up for airing an interview of Yakub Memon’s lawyer, who spoke about how many countries had done away with the death penalty.
The ministry had invoked Sections 1(d), 1(g) and 1(e) of Rule 6 of the Programme Code prescribed under the Cable Television Network Rules, 1994 in the show-cause notice issued to the three channels.
Section 1(d) states that no programme should be carried that contains anything “obscene, defamatory, deliberate, false and suggestive innuendos and half-truths.”
Section 1(e) states that no programme should be carried on the cable service that is “likely to encourage or incite violence or contains anything against maintenance of law and order or which promote anti-national attitudes.”
Section 1(g) bars channels from carrying content that “contains aspersions against the integrity of the President and Judiciary”.
The I&B ministry obtained video clips of the Chhota Shakeel phone-in and Yakub’s lawyer’s statement from the Electronic Media and Monitoring Centre (EMMC) to get the quotes cited in the notice.
After receiving the response from the channels, an inter-ministerial committee comprising officials from the home, external affairs and defence ministries will review the responses and decide on the next step.
Minister of Corporate Affairs and Minister of Information & Broadcasting Arun Jaitley had recently said in Lok Sabha that the government took action in 86 cases. In 20 of these cases, the TV channels were barred from transmission for violating the programme code in the last three and a half years.
Out of these, 20 channels were banned for specific period of time ranging from one to 30 days. In other cases, the ministry issued specific warnings or advisories to channels to comply with the Programme/Advertising Codes or directed them to run apology scrolls on their channels.