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NBA writes to Andhra CM to withdraw controversial order on media

The order can have a “chilling effect” on the media, the letter says.

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MUMBAI: Expressing concern over Andhra Pradesh government’s controversial order, delegating powers to secretaries of government departments to file complaints and defamation cases against ‘erring’ media organisations and personnel, the News Broadcasters Association (NBA) has written a letter to CM Jagan Mohan Reddy.

Taking exception to GO, the letter says that the order can have a “chilling effect” on the media and will lead to the possibility of the news media  “targeted at every instance, to prevent it from reporting important news.”

Andhra CM Jagan Reddy has on 30 October issued an order delegating powers to the secretaries of respective departments to lodge complaints and file appropriate legal cases through public prosecutor against false, baseless and defamatory news items published, telecast or posted in print, electronic and social media.    

“If stipulations as have been prescribed by said Order become the norm,” says the letter, then, it “will affect the very survival and existence of the news media.”

“Criminal intimidation of journalists and preventing them from performing their duties are violations of the freedoms enshrined in and guaranteed by the Constitution. Government intervention in news content without a transparent process is nothing short of censorship, and a threat to the freedom of the press,” the letter adds. 

Further, NBA notes that it had set up the News Broadcasting Standards Authority (NBSA), headed by A. K. Sikri, former Supreme Court Judge, in 2008, which looks into complaints of its member broadcasters, adding that from MIB to ECI, various bodies have approached the body regarding complaints which have been resolved in timely manner.

Asking CM Reddy to withdraw the said order to restore the confidence of the media, the letter says that a free and independent media is the cornerstone of Indian democracy, and it behoves an elected government to support and strengthen media independence rather than throttle it.

NBA, an independent body of 29 leading national and regional news broadcasting companies, is currently headed by Mr. Rajat Sharma.

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