NEW DELHI (AP) — Government officials in India have ordered a popular news channel to go off the air for a day over its coverage of an attack on an Indian air base in January.
The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting said in an order Thursday that NDTV India was being penalized for broadcasting sensitive details of the attack on the military base in the northern town of Pathankot that left seven soldiers dead. Authorities have blamed Pakistan-based militants for the attack on the sprawling base that lasted for nearly four days.
The news channel has said its coverage was fair and balanced and didn't include any details not aired by other news stations. It said it is exploring all legal options to reverse the ban slated for next Wednesday.
The order to ban the channel has been criticized by other media organizations.
The Editors' Guild of India said the order was unprecedented and that the federal government appeared to have given itself the power "to intervene in the functioning of the media and take arbitrary punitive action as and when it does not agree with the coverage." The organization, a grouping of the editors of all major newspapers and magazines in the country, said if the government finds any media coverage objectionable, it can approach the courts.
Several prominent journalists also criticized the order.
"The banning of NDTV India is a shocking flexing of govt muscle over free media. Don't shoot the messenger," journalist Sagarika Ghose tweeted.
"Govt pulling TV news channels off air is a dangerous trend," Rahul Kanwal, a top news anchor and editor, said on Twitter.
India routinely asks entertainment TV channels to censor words it deems too racy for local audiences. But the order against NDTV India is the first such ban on a television station for its reporting of a militant attack.
In insurgency-wracked Indian-controlled Kashmir, however, it's not uncommon for local newspapers to be barred from publishing for several days in a row when cycles of protests and violence flare up.
One newspaper, the Kashmir Reader, has been banned for over a month with officials saying its contents could incite violence.