On August 4, 2014 the Cabinet approved the National Broadcast Policy-2014, keeping a lot of scope for the government to misuse the policy on the pretext of maintaining the standard of news, programmes and advertisements in the electronic media. The government has unilaterally finalised the policy, brushing aside the recommendations put forth by the stakeholders. The policy imposes draconian restrictions, particularly on the broadcast of news and advertisements based on political parties’ statements. The policy should have been finalised by the Broadcast Commission that has been envisaged. It is believed that the government has approved this policy to curb the freedom of the media in the country.
Odhikar believes that the new policy will allow the government to interfere even more in the content of news, advertisements and talk-shows on television and radio. Once in force, all contents of radio and television will come under strict government scrutiny, which will curb the freedom of the media, of speech and expression.
According to the draft policy, false, discriminatory and misleading information and statistics must be avoided in news and programmes. The policy will restrict the airing of anything that demeans armed forces, law enforcement agencies and government officials who can punish people for criminal offences. It implies that if anyone criticizes the unlawful acts of law enforcement agencies or government officials, it will be considered demeaning the said agencies. Odhikar believes that this will further encourage the law enforcers and armed forces to commit human rights violations with mounting impunity.
The policy will impose restrictions on airing news or any programmes that pose threat to national security and sovereignty or could appear satirical to national ideology, the armed forces and law enforcement agencies; could hurt religious sentiments and cause hatred among the people; and talk-shows with inconsistent and misleading information. The question that arises is, how will one determine ‘threat to national security’ and if someone has given false or misleading information on talk-shows, how will that be determined?
Odhikar expresses grave concern on the Cabinet’s approval of the National Broadcast Policy which is contrary to the fundamental rights enshrined in the Constitution. Odhikar demands the government immediately rescind the Policy as it is contrary to constitutionally guaranteed rights and freedoms.
The Odhikar Team