The war of words over the one-day ban on Hindi news channel NDTV India by the Centre escalated today with I and B minister Venkaiah Naidu saying it was in the interest of "country's security" and the opposition asserting the action will lead to "second Emergency".
Naidu while denouncing references to the Emergency in the context of the order for blackout of the channel on November 9 over its coverage of Pathankot attack slammed the opposition parties for "politicisation" of such issues, noting that the Modi government has the highest regard for freedom of media. Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and fellow JD(U) leader Sharad Yadav, DMK chief M Karunanidhi, BSP supremo Mayawati and RJD chief Lalu Prasad Yadav hit out at the Centre, calling the ban an "insult to freedom of expression" and demanded its withdrawal. The CPI(M) politburo said it showed the "authoritarian" attitude of the Modi government.
Justifying the government's decision, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar said NDTV India appeared to have violated the guidelines issued by the Centre over live coverage of an anti-terror operation.
Addressing a press conference in Chennai, Naidu also slammed Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi for "talking about the dark days of Emergency".
"I was surprised, aghast. Some people talked of Emergency-like situation. The action was taken in the interest of the country's safety and security", he said, adding, "Politicisation of such issues will affect the safety and security of the country." Listing out the names of some of the channels that were banned in the past, he said, "AXN was banned for two months. FTV was banned for two months. Enter10 for one day. ABN AndhraJyoti seven days. Al Jazeera was banned for five days for showing wrong map of India.
"These are all done earlier. Now they are saying it is done for the first time, murder of democracy, Emergency reminiscent and all," the Information and Broadcasting Minister noted.
Official sources gave details of "warnings" issued by the previous UPA regime against the NDTV group over telecast of some of its programmes.
"The Central government's decision to ban NDTV India is condemnable. The decision tantamounts to controlling the freedom of media. It is quite necessary to have a free and impartial media in a country like India," Nitish Kumar said in a statement in Patna.
At a news conference in Lucknow, Mayawati accused the Modi government of throttling Freedom of Press.
"If the Central government continues with such activities, it will lead to a second Emergency and those black days will be etched in the minds of people," Karunanidhi said, adding the action reminded him of the Emergency days when his articles in party mouthpiece 'Murasoli' were 'banned' then. Lalu Prasad said the government action is an attack on democracy. "Narendra Modi, BJP and RSS is taking country toward emergency and dictatorship", Lalu said while addressing Samajwadi Party (SP) celebrations in Lucknow.