Armed forces

Get Your Stories on Army ‘Pre-Verified’, MoD Tells Media After ‘Pakistan Markings’ Snafu

The MoD’s demand has no legal basis; no government body has the right to censor or screen news before it is published

The story the defence ministry is upset with.

The story the defence ministry is upset with.

New Delhi: Upset at the publication of a news items contradicting a key aspect of the Uri attack that a senior army officer had provided to the media, the defence ministry has told editors “all contents relating to the Indian Army, irrespective of ‘source’ of inputs, and intended to be published, should be pre-verified from the offices of media centres in commands & corps HQ or from this office through your defence correspondents”.

The MoD was responding to a story in the Indian Express on September 21 which refuted the claim made by Lt Gen Ranbir Singh, director general of military operations, in interviews to journalists the day before that the weapons recovered from the four slain terrorists who killed 18 Indian soldiers at Uri on September 18 bore “Pakistani markings”.

Writing in the Indian Express, Sagnik Chowdhury and Praveen Swami reported that:

Four Kalashnikov rifles used by the terrorists, and handed over by the military to investigators Monday, bore no markings or insignia of any kind, sources familiar with the ongoing investigation said. There were also no military markings on barrel-fired grenades destroyed by the Army Monday, or on launchers fitted on the Kalashnikovs.

Though the defence ministry now says the DGMO never made this claim – and cites the formal press release he had issued on the evening September 18 to buttress its point, the fact is that  several media outlets had quoted him saying so to TV channels for more than a day without the MoD or General Singh feeling the need to issue a denial.

The Wire has learned that not only has the director, media in the MoD, Abhijit Mitra – who is a serving colonel in the Indian army – now demanded that the newspaper “publish an errata and apology for having published a report full of falsehood” but that henceforth it submit reports on the army to be “pre-verified” by the relevant corps or command media office.

The MoD’s demand has no legal basis – no government body has the right to censor or screen news before it is published, and freedom of the press is enshrined in the law via the constitutional right to free speech.

Israel is the only country with an otherwise unrestricted media where all media outlets – including bloggers and foreign journalists based there – are subject to a military censor when it comes to the reporting of news about Israeli military matters. Military censorship in Israel began in the 1960s as part of an understanding between the army and the media houses but eventually got established as a legal prerogative.

  • K SHESHU BABU

    India is not only taking defence advice from Israel but also advice on how to impose censorship on reporting about military and defence matters. Both the nations are working towards same goal – censorship!

  • Ghulam Lone

    Is it any surprise that the Indian media feeds Indian citizens propaganda in regards to anything that involved Kashmir and Pakistan? Because it shouldn’t be.

  • mihir

    The author is quick to point out the lack of legal basis in the MoD’s argument, but makes no comments on the media acting responsibly on its part and cross-verifying news items. Shouldn’t an official press release by a body’s official media centre be the only source of news ? Apart from that there can be endless facts; and opinions and guesses masquerading as facts. Shouldn’t the media assume some responsibility on its own and make sure it doesn’t end up playing against the home side, case in point being the live coverage of the 26/11 attacks and the up to the minute reporting from outside the Taj hotel.

  • Rama Reddy

    It is a great pity that the Ministry of Defence has chosen to issue such stupid direction. I hope the media – print, electronic, online, etc – will put the directive in waste paper basket.

  • Kamalakanta

    Is the emergency not far ahead ?