The Indian government has ordered a popular news channel to be taken off air for a day as a penalty for its coverage of an attack on Indian soldiers in January.
The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting said on Friday that NDTV Hindi revealed strategically sensitive details during the attack on the Pathankot airbase, allegedly carried out by the Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed group.
Seven soldiers and six armed fighters were killed in the attack. Officials said that the channel would go off air from Wednesday as an inter-ministerial panel found the channel had revealed details of the government operation and locations within the base.
NDTV rejected the accusation, saying its coverage was “particularly balanced” and it had been “singled out since every channel and newspaper had similar coverage.”
The order against NDTV India is the first such ban on a television station for its reporting of an attack on the state.
These attacks come at a time in which government is seen to be trying to tell people that they should be on a single page, with the government, when it comes to matters of national security
Bharat Bhushan, editor of Catch News, told Al Jazeera that the move was “an attempt to a tame a channel that has been critical of government”.
“These attacks come at a time in which government is seen trying to tell people that they should be on a single page, with the government, when it comes to matters of national security,” Bhushan said from New Delhi.
The Editors’ Guild of India and opposition politicians also condemned the move, saying it was an impingement on press freedom and demanded the decision be reversed immediately.
“The decision to take the channel off the air for a day is a direct violation of the freedom of the media and therefore the citizens of India, and amounts to harsh censorship imposed by the government,” the guild said.
In its statement, NDTV said it was looking at all possible options to respond to the “extraordinary order”.
India routinely asks entertainment TV channels to censor words it deems too offensive for local audiences.
In India-administered Kashmir, however, it is 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 more than a month with officials saying its contents could incite violence.