A city-based rights group today strongly condemned the one-day ban on Hindi news channel 'NDTV India' by the Centre, saying it is "reminiscent of the Emergency period" when the voice of the press was muzzled.
People's Union for Civil Liberties alleged it is "chilling reminder that the present BJP-led NDA government will not hesitate to crush freedom of the media, and with it the right to freedom of speech and expression of the people, if it suits their political interest to prevent dissent and democratic criticism of its policies."
The war of words over the ban, meanwhile, escalated today with Information and Broadcasting minister Venkaiah Naidu saying it was in the interest of "country's security" and the opposition asserting the action will lead to "second Emergency".
"The decision is reminiscent of the Emergency period when the media was muzzled," PUCL said in a statement.
"The PUCL strongly condemns the decision of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting to punish Hindi news channel, NDTV India," it said.
The leaders of the non-BJP parties and several media bodies had yesterday demanded immediate withdrawal of the order imposing the blackout on November 9.
The inter-ministerial committee constituted by the I and B ministry had concluded that the channel had revealed crucial and "strategically sensitive" information when the terror attack on Pathankot IAF base was being carried out in January, according to official sources.
"NDTV, in its defence, had pointed out with facts and evidence that the allegation was unsustainable and unjustified as the information had already been made public and published by print media and electronic media before its telecast," the statement said.
The Committee however not only rejected this as a "mitigating factor" but also recommended that NDTV India needed to be punished, it said.
"On the face of it, the decision of the Inter-ministerial Committee and the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting is legally untenable, ethically unacceptable and factually fallacious," the PUCL claimed.
"The punitive action against NDTV India smacks of arbitrariness, discrimination and clearly exhibits the true intent of the NDA government to crush anyone from critically questioning the government's policies, programmes and actions.
"The vindictive action against NDTV India is thus a warning to other media agencies of the fate that awaits them if they challenged the government's line," it claimed.
The PUCL therefore calls upon all democratic sections of society to immediately raise their voices "demanding a revocation" of the ban order.
(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)