The Supreme Court on Tuesday adjourned the hearing of a plea challenging a day’s ban on NDTV India to December 5 as Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi told the court that government was considering a plea for review of its decision.
“There is no real urgency as their plea (by NDTV) for review of the decision is being considered by the government,” Attorney General Rohatgi told Justice A.K. Sikri.
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The government on November 7 put on hold its order asking NDTV that its Hindi channel would be shut for 24 hours on November 9 for allegedly flouting norms. NDTV India was ordered to go off-air as government accused it of broadcasting sensitive details of January’s terror attack on the air force base in Pathankot. The channel has refuted the allegations and pointed out that other channels and newspapers reported the same information.
The ban has been widely condemned by journalists and editors with all press councils drawing parallels to the Emergency of the 1970s when basic constitutional rights including the freedom of the press were blatantly violated.
After a large protest held by journalists from every major media organisation in Delhi, the Press Council of India said the government’s action amounts to “uncalled for censorship” at a time when “press freedom is already under increasing threat in the country.”
Last week, when the ban was announced, The Editors’ Guild of India said the order was unprecedented and that the centre appears to have given itself the power “to intervene in the functioning of the media and take arbitrary punitive action as and when it does not agree with the coverage.” The organisation, a grouping of the editors of all major newspapers and magazines in the country, said if the government finds any media coverage objectionable, it can approach the courts.
Defending the ban, Information and Broadcasting Minister Venkaiah Naidu has said that it is “in the interest of the country’s security” and that the barrage of criticism confronted by the government appears “politically inspired.”