• Progressive Organisations Condemn Assault on Media Freedom

    ICF Team

    November 9, 2016

    "Breaking news (et in arcadia ego)", (c) Guy Denning

    As of Monday, November 7, 2016, the National Alliance of People’s Movements unequivocally condemns the high-handedness of the BJP-led central government, its unprecedented assault on the freedom of press—the latest being the one-day selective ban on NDTV-India—and thereby an assault on the country’s right to know, right to question, right to dissent, and the very right to democracy.

    The nation knows quite well that the NDTV ban has little connection with the allegation of the channel divulging sensitive information on the Pathankot terror-strike airbase and more to do with the channel’s, particularly Mr. Ravish Kumar’s scathing critique of the undemocratic and Sangh-driven policies and politics of the BJP. This clearly explains why NDTV India has been prejudicially singled out even as similar ‘objectionable’ content was aired by numerous channels around the same time.  

    The ban, at best, is vague, arbitrary and prima facie lacks substance and merit. Even assuming there has been a rule violation (which is not discernable in the circumstances), the government could have resorted to other legal remedies, but it chose to go the ‘ban way’ thereby trying to ‘test the waters’ and give out a message to all ‘noise-makers’ in the country that if this can happen to NDTV, the rest are small fry. This is a dangerous precedent and must be condemned by the media fraternity, civil society and citizenry alike. It is in this context NAPM demands that the ban imposed for one day on 9th November, 2016 should be withdrawn forthwith.

    Having stated this, we would also like to highlight that in places such as Kashmir and Chattisgarh, not only does freedom of press go for a toss on a daily basis, but the very security of persons/agencies who report unsavoury truth [is] shut down; [they are] targeted, harassed and even killed. All of this has been happening for a very, very long time, and continues to this day when the government wants to wage its wars without witnesses. While, sadly, these violations have not caught the national imagination as much as the NDTV ban has, we wish to state that all these violations are equally condemnable and must be seen as part of a cohesive devious right-wing politik to subvert democracy and constitutional rule of law.

    As for the big media, it is indeed a wake-up call and a serious occasion for a re-think. Be it Outlook, The Indian Express and now NDTV, all have faced the ire of successive governments; not to speak of the countless cases of routine, unreported attacks on stringers, photographers, journalists. It is about time the media stands united for freedom of press and expression in its entirety and speaks up for any violation. But how much of this will be possible, especially by conscientious journalists in an overwhelming atmosphere of corporate-driven media is a challenge of our times. How much of this outrage will bring about an actual change in editorial policies in the interests of professional ethics and constitutional propriety is also uncertain, but we all must act with due vigilance and resist any attempts at erosion of democratic values.

    Medha Patkar – Narmada Bachao Andolan and the National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM)
    Aruna Roy, Nikhil Dey and Shankar Singh – Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan & National Campaign for People’s Right to Information
    Prafulla Samantara – Lok Shakti Abhiyan
    Lingraj Azad – Samajwadi Jan Parishad – Niyamgiri Suraksha Samiti, NAPM, Odisha
    Dr. Sunilam, Aradhna Bhargava – Kisan Sangharsh Samiti 
    Suniti SR, Suhas Kolhekar, Prasad Bagwe – NAPM, Maharashtra
    Milind Champanerkar – Editorial member, Andolan Magazine, Pune
    Gabriele Dietrich, Geetha Ramakrishnan – Unorganised Sector Workers Federation, NAPM, TN
    C R Neelkandan – NAPM Kerala
    P Chennaiah, Ramakrishnam Raju, Meera Sanghamitra – NAPM Telangana-AP
    Arundhati Dhuru, Richa Singh, Nandlal Master – NAPM, UP
    Sister Celia – Domestic Workers Union & Rukmini V P – Garment Labour Union, NAPM, Karnataka
    Vimal Bhai – Matu Jan Sangathan
    Jabar Singh – NAPM, Uttarakhand
    Anand Mazgaonkar, Krishnakant – Paryavaran Suraksh Samiti, NAPM Gujarat
    Kamayani Swami, Ashish Ranjan – Jan Jagran Shakti Sangathan
    Mahendra Yadav – Kosi Navnirman Manch, NAPM Biha
    Faisal Khan, Khudai Khidmatgar, J S Walia – NAPM Haryana
    Kailash Meena – NAPM Rajasthan
    Amitava Mitra & Avik Saha – NAPM West Bengal
    Bilal Khan – Ghar Bachao Ghar Banao Andolan, Mumbai
    Bhupender Singh Rawat – Jan Sangharsh Vahini
    Rajendra Ravi, Madhuresh Kumar – NAPM, Delhi
     

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    "The disasters of war", (c) Guy Denning

    All progressive organizations in Pune came together to demonstrate against the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting's decision to blackout NDTV India news channel on November 9 as a penalty for its coverage of an attack on the Pathankot air-force base earlier this year.

    The demonstration was held at Ambedkar Statue, opposite the Collector's Office on Monday, Novmber 7. The participating organisations included Socialist Party (India), Lokayat, Rashtra Seva Dal, Arogya Sena, LNP (L), LIC Pensioners' Association, Pune Zilla Molkarin Sangathan, NAPM, NBA, DYFI, Bharip Bahujan Mahasangh, Swaraj Abhiyan, Vidrohi Sanskritik Chalwal, AISA, National Union of Journalists and others.

    The protesting organizations and individuals stated that the ban was a direct attack on the freedom of press and citizens' fundamental right to freedom of speech and expression.

    The protesters raised several points:

    – the news broadcast by NDTV India was balanced and similar to broadcasts by other news channels

    – the government did not find it necessary to register a complaint with the News Broadcasting Standards Authority (NBSA), which has handled similar complains in the past

    – the government also did not find it necessary to sue the news channel through legal procedures

    – the government has singled out a news channel that it feels raises uncomfortable questions about their policies

    – the ban (on the grounds of compromising national security) is ironic, as the government shows no concern for our retired army officers, as is evident from the OROP struggle and the recent suicide by an ex-army jawan

    – the right to declare any person, organization or agency 'anti-national' and take action against them taking advantage of their power and authority, does not lie with a few ministers and officers of the government

    – every citizen has the right to question the authority; the authority is accountable and answerable to its citizens

    – the ban is an attempt to weaken the democratic fabric of our country

    The good news is that bowing to similar protests organised around the country, the government has deferred its decision to implement the ban!

    This small battle has been won, but there are many more such small battles going on in the country at the moment. This entire NDTV-ban episode has shown once again that peoples' struggles and movements do have an impact on government actions. We should stand up for truth, justice and extend our solidarity to each other in such times.


    For the Indian Writers Forum's stand on the issue, see here. For more statements against the ban on NDTV India, see here and here.

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