A day after the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting announced it had put on hold its decision to take NDTV India off air for a day on November 9 because the TV channel had made a “representation in this regard”, a blog post that contradicted the ministry’s version and claimed it was the government that blinked was retweeted Tuesday by NDTV co-founder Prannoy Roy, setting the stage for a new war of words.
The blog claimed it was the ministry that approached NDTV to meet Union Minister for Information and Broadcasting M Venkaiah Naidu for a resolution because “the government was in panic mode” since “the entire media was standing behind NDTV, opinion polls done, including those on right-wing websites, showed that NDTV had massive public sympathy”.
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NDTV India was to be taken off air for a day on November 9 for allegedly revealing “strategically sensitive” information during the course of its coverage of anti-terror operations at the Pathankot airbase earlier this year.
On Monday, after meeting Roy and NDTV officials, Naidu, in a series of tweets, announced the decision to put the ban order on hold: “The top leadership of NDTV had sought a meeting with me. Today we met & during our meeting they requested revocation of ban on NDTV India. NDTV leadership presented an appeal to me, which I said I will have a look & decided, till the process, the ban will be on hold.”
An order by Director (Broadcast Content) Neeti Sarkar stated: “The channel has made representation in this regard, which is under examination. Pending such examination, it is hereby ordered that operation of the said order be held in abeyance till further orders.”
But the blog by Amit Sen, with the headline ‘Why the NDTV Ban Was Put on Hold’, which gave a different account of the run-up to the Naidu-Roy meeting and claimed “the government had started sensing that it had lost the battle”, was endorsed Tuesday by NDTV editors.
Roy retweeted a tweet by Suparna Singh, NDTV’s director of strategy and editor of its website that said, “the inside story on why #NDTVBanned was put on hold,” with a link to the blog. Maya Mirchandani, foreign affairs editor at NDTV while providing a link to the post, wrote, “For all interested in the truth: Why the NDTV Ban Was Put On Hold”.
Press Information Bureau Director General Frank Noronha, who was present at the Monday meeting, rejected claims made in the blog. “The Minister did not invite anybody for any meeting from NDTV,” Noronha told The Indian Express. “In fact, an appointment was sought by Prannoy Roy,” he said.
On the blog details, Noronha said: “That is absolute rubbish and sensational exaggeration.” In the I&B Ministry, officials were not pleased that senior staffers of NDTV had pushed the blog.
The blog quoted sources saying “a top official was asked to contact a senior editor in NDTV and arrange a meeting” with Naidu. “NDTV told the official that it was already going to the Supreme Court and was not interested in any rapprochement. The official hinted that if NDTV said that it will be more mindful in future, the ban could be lifted. Sources say, the official was surprised by the firm stand the NDTV editor took and informed the minister that NDTV was not ready for a compromise,” the blog said.
According to the blog, “feelers were sent out again to senior NDTV editors and correspondents that the government wants to end it. Sources say, there was much relief when the ministry received word” that Roy was ready to meet Naidu.
It went on to say “it appears NDTV’s firm stand at the meeting took the ministry by surprise. It had expected the channel to be more conciliatory. Instead, Prannoy Roy is believed to have stuck to his basic stand that NDTV has not done anything wrong, and will not make any request or appeal for the ban to be reconsidered.”
The ministry, the blog said, “requested” NDTV to make “an official representation for the ban to be put on hold.” After discussions with its lawyers, “NDTV agreed to give an official letter provided a letter from the minister holding the one day ban in abeyance, would be handed over simultaneously… Finally, the government blinked.”
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