NDTV India’s senior executive editor Ravish Kumar made a strong statement against the government’s decision to take the Hindi news channel off the air on November 9. During his Prime Time show on November 4, Kumar tried to interview mime artists – one portraying ‘authority’ and the other ‘troll’ – to help depict the censorship being imposed on his channel and raise questions about the state of freedom of speech in the country.
The information and broadcasting ministry decided to impose a day-long ban on the channel for its coverage of the Pathankot attack. The ministry alleges NDTV India compromised national security by broadcasting sensitive details about the Pathankot airbase even as it was still under attack by terrorists on January 4.
Kumar’s show came in response to minister of state for home affairs Kiren Rijiju’s comments on the media. When asked about the alleged encounter in Bhopal in which eight SIMI operatives were killed, Rijiju said the media’s “habit” of questioning authorities and the police “should stop”.
“When did authority and police rise above questioning? Authority means accountability. Without it, power becomes something else altogether. When we cannot ask questions, when we cannot speak freely, what can we do?” NDTV wrote when introducing Kumar’s show on various online platforms.
Kumar’s statement drew strong reactions from various quarters, with many praising the journalist.
Meanwhile, there has been an outpouring of support for NDTV India. Journalists in Bhopal condemned the government’s decision to block the channel, terming it “an attack on [the] media and [an] attempt to curtail freedom of expression in the country”. They have also decided to wear black bands on November 9 as a mark of solidarity.
Earlier, the Editors Guild of India had condemned the ban, saying it violates the freedom of the media.
But even as Kumar’s broadcast made waves, news of another channel being taken off air came in. The government ordered News Time Assam to be taken off air for a day, following the recommendations of a high-level panel which felt it had “violated” programming guidelines on more than one occasion.