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Minister of Information and Broadcasting M. Venkaiah Naidu
Minister of Information and Broadcasting M. Venkaiah Naidu

Union Information and Broadcasting Minister M. Venkaiah Naidu on Saturday hit back at criticism of the 24-hour ban imposed on Hindi news channel NDTV India, saying that “freedom of press is important but the country’s security can’t be compromised”.

“Country’s security is paramount. It’s time to ponder if security of the nation is important or TRPs of TV channels,” Naidu said in a series of tweets.

The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting has directed the news channel to go off air from the midnight of November 8 to midnight of November 9 for allegedly breaching broadcast norms in its coverage of the January 2 terror attack on the IAF base in Pathankot.

“UPA government took TV channels off air 21 times for showing objectionable visuals and A grade certified films at the stroke of midnight. Isn’t showing anti-terror operations live in broad day light a more serious threat to country? People know which is a serious concern,” Naidu said.

The senior BJP leader said that both UPA and NDA governments had voiced concern over violation of advisories on coverage code by media while reporting on anti-terror operations.

“As security of country is a major concern, a rule was made in March this year requiring TV channels to go by official briefings so that security interests are not jeopardised,” Naidu said in another tweet.

Naidu said that the BJP leaders and activists are the worst sufferers of the Emergency and can’t even think of doing the same to others.

“Highly regard media and its freedom and will never do any infringement of such freedom. Unfortunately, NDTV India did not put such freedom to good use,” he said.

Naidu said the previous Congress-led UPA government issued several advisories calling for restraint. It even said violation of coverage norms amounted to coverage against national interest.

“Decision on NDTV India only a logical conclusion of concerns voiced by UPA government over live coverage of anti terror operations since 26/11 terror attack.

“Happy that countrymen broadly supported government’s decision on NDTV India in security interest of the county in the context of terror menace and the need to exercise restraint while reporting anti-terror operations by security personnel,” the Union Minister said.

On Friday, the government’s ban drew much flak from many quarters. Journalists and major opposition politicians asked the government to immediately rescind its “Emergency-like decision” to ban NDTV India.

Rallying behind the news channel, the Editors Guild of India, the Broadcast Editors Association (BEA), the News Broadcasters Association (NBA), the Indian Journalists Union (IJU) and the All India Newspaper Editors Conference (AINEC) all condemned the government decision that came after the recommendation of an inter-ministerial panel instituted by the Information and Broadcasting Ministry.