Stung by the massive anti-government protests triggered by the gruesome Delhi gang-rape, the Information and Broadcasting Ministry has issued a gag order to TV channels.
The ministry’s advisory released late Sunday evening said “inappropriate” media reportage was likely to “vitiate the law and order situation”.
The strongly-worded advisory, which reads much like the media gag orders of the Emergency days, is aimed at forcing TV channels to tone down their coverage.
Terming the coverage by some channels as lacking in maturity, the ministry advised them to report the protests in a “responsible manner”.
This comes at a time when the government only shut down nine Metro stations and blocked access to India Gate to prevent people from gathering there to protest. While Sunday’s protests turned violent, policemen lathicharged even mediapersons covering the protests. Most of the roads leading to high-powered addresses in the capital have been blocked to traffic for an indefinite period.
“It has been observed that some private satellite news TV channels have not been showing due responsibility and maturity in telecasting the events relating to the said demonstration and such a telecast is likely to cause deterioration in the law and order, hindering the efforts of the law enforcing authorities,” the advisory said.
It advised all channels that they should scrupulously following the programme code to telecast the matter “in a responsible manner with due care, maturity and restraint.”
The order pointed out that the programme code stands against any “programme which is likely to encourage or incite violence or contains anything against maintenance of law and order or which promotes anti-national attitude. Signed by joint secretary of the I&B Ministry Supriya Sahu, it ends with a warning that “any violation would invite action under the cable rules.”
Sources said Information and Broadcasting Ministry officials also called up TV news channels asking them against using inflammatory headlines.
The News Broadcasters Association also issued a statement Monday after the attack on mediapersons by the police. It said that all member channels had reported the protests over the last few days with great maturity, sensitivity and restraint. “It would be a sad day for the country, and democracy if any attempt is made to muzzle the media.”
In another development, the Broadcast Complaints Council (BCC) of India, the body covering all entertainment channels, has asked its member channels to refrain from showing any vulgar content. In its advisory, in the wake of the gang-rape in Delhi, BCC told channels to refrain from featuring children below the age of 12 years in any situation that has sexual or adult overtones.