Freedom of the press will prevail, Sonia Gandhi tells NBA

By Sumantha Rathore , afaqs!, New Delhi | In Media Publishing | January 16, 2009
Both the UPA chairperson and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh have said that the government will take no action that will curb the working of a free media

Following & #BANNER1 & # objections from broadcasters to the proposed amendment in the Cable TV Rules by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, as a result of the extensive coverage by TV channels of the Mumbai terror attacks, a delegation from the News Broadcasters Association (NBA), led by its president, G Krishnan, met with UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi on January 15.

Gandhi assured the delegation that she herself believed that the media should be free, without any restrictions imposed on it. She also stated that the government would take no action that would be detrimental to the working of a free media.

Earlier this week, the broadcasters had expressed their concern over the proposed amendments, saying that they were a serious assault on the principles of free media and the right to freedom of speech and expression. They saw it as an attempt to subjugate the media to government control.

According to the proposed amendment, district magistrates, sub-divisional magistrates and commissioners of police will have the power to block live transmission by any channel and confiscate transmission equipment. The amendment would also enable visuals and footage to be provided through nodal agencies during national crises.

The editors also met with the Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, to discuss the issue. Singh assured them that the matter would be finalised only after the widest possible consultation with all the stakeholders and after eliciting their points of view on the proposed changes.

The statement issued by the NBA says that in the meeting with Gandhi, she also said that she would take up the matter with the Prime Minister.

According to the statement, Gandhi appreciated the initiatives taken by the NBA in setting up an authority under the chairmanship of Justice (Retd) JS Verma, former chief justice of India. In December, the NBA had announced a set of guidelines for the telecast of news in emergency situations, which had been drawn up by a committee led by Justice Verma.

The members of the delegation that met Gandhi included Narayan Rao, group chief executive officer, NDTV; Shazi Zaman, editor, STAR News; Rajat Sharma, chairman, India TV; Jawahar Goyal, chairman, Zee News; and Annie Joseph, secretary general, NBA.