Television

News channels urge PM to scrap proposed curbs

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MUMBAI/NEW DELHI: Indian democracy will be damaged if the government decides to go ahead with the proposed curbs on news channels, leading broadcasters said late Monday.

Stressing on the point that media needs 'self-regulation and not regulation," 15 editors of news channels said in a letter to prime minister Manmohan Singh that “the proposed measures to gag the electronic media have caused immense disquiet in the journalistic fraternity and amongst all those who believe in the freedom of expression.”

The editors have sought for an urgent appointment with the prime minister and have urged Singh to immediately suspend the proposed measures.

Earlier, the ministry for information and broadcasting had recommended amendment in the law so that government can restrict news coverage during emergencies.

In their letter to the prime minister, who also holds the charge of information and broadcasting ministry, the editors have mentioned that "the media is the watchdog to keep democracy and democratic principles alive. If instruments of the state begin to regulate us, the damage to democracy and all stakeholders in democracy would be irreparable. It is all the more surprising that this is happening when you are directly holding charge of the ministry of Information and Broadcasting.”

Meanwhile, the editors, in a separate statement said that if the Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act is amended, then many officials like district magistrates and sub-divisional magistrates) and commissioners of police will have the power to block live transmission of any channel and confiscate transmission equipment.

“The worst aspect of the proposal is the plan to provide visuals and footage through a nodal agency in any situation which is deemed ‘nationally important’. What it means is television channels can no longer cover communal riots and even agitations like the one seen in Rajasthan during the Gujjar Andolan,” stressed editors.

The editors further emphasised the fact that the existing laws already arm the government with substantial powers to legally act against channels which are violating the conditions laid out under the licensing agreements. And the fact that the government has decided to proceed and amend the law indicates that the intention behind such a move is more to gag and disallow the media from performing its duties and not so much to create a penal provision against violators.

The editors also declared that they understand that their right comes with responsibility to function according to the highest standards of ethics and national interest.

The editors at the end stated the need of the government to take a mature and constitutional view of their proposed amendments. “The government must not go ahead with the proposed amendments which would be the worst possible assault on the Fourth Estate, a critical role in the world’s largest and most vibrant democracy,” they added.

Finally, the editors have requested the prime minister to personally meet at the earliest and have stated that these measures "may for all times taint this government as one that tried to impose draconian measures on media.”

The letter is signed by Ajit Anjum (News 24), Arnab Goswami (Times Now), Ashutosh (IBN7), Barkha Dutt (NDTV 24X7), Deepak Chaurasia, Milind Khandekar (Star News), N K Singh (ETV), Pankaj Pachauri (NDTV India), QW Naqwi (Aaj Tak), Rajdeep Sardesai (CNN IBN), Satish K Singh (Zee News), Shazi Zaman (Star News), Supriya Prasad (News 24), Vinay Tiwari (CNN IBN) and Vinod Kapri (India TV).

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