India threatens to suspend TV news channels

India’s Ministry of Information and Broadcasting on August 7, 2015, issued legal notices to three privately owned TV news channels, accusing them of violating broadcast regulations in coverage that was “disrespectful” to the country’s president and “tended to denigrate” the judiciary, according to news reports.

The notices said that ABP News, Aaj Tak, and NDTV had 15 days to explain why they should not be suspended.

The channels had aired interviews in connection with the July 30, 2015, execution of Yakub Memon, who was convicted for his involvement in the 1993 Mumbai attacks, which left more than 250 people dead.

Aaj Tak and ABP News, two Hindi-language news channels, aired phone-in interviews with Chhota Shakeel, an accused criminal who claimed Memon was innocent and that four petitions to revoke Memon’s execution had been dismissed in one day, The Indian Express reported.

NDTV, a privately owned news network, aired an interview on August 1, 2015, with Memon’s former lawyer, who spoke about countries around the world that had abolished the death penalty.

News executives from the channels said they had given significant airtime to government officials who were in favor of the execution, The New York Times reported. “We don’t think we have violated any regulation at all,” NDTV Editorial Director Sonia Singh said, according to the Times report. “We feel our coverage was extremely fair and balanced. However, we are looking at the notice and will respond to the ministry.”

News accounts said that a committee, made up of officials from the Ministries of Home, External Affairs, and Defense, would convene to review the channels’ response and decide on how to move forward.