Govt. Lifts Ban on Malayalam TV Channels After Facing Strong Criticism
NEW DELHI, MARCH 07— After facing strong condemnation from journalists, media bodies and politicians, the Information & Broadcasting (I&B) Ministry of the central government Saturday morning lifted the 48-hour ban that it had imposed Friday evening on two reputed Malayalam TV channels – Media One and Asianet for their “biased” coverage of the Delhi violence and for being “critical towards Delhi Police and RSS.”
The government had forced the channels off air from 7:30 PM on Friday and it was to continue till 7:30 PM on Sunday. However, around 9:30 AM on Saturday, the government lifted the ban.
In its ban order for Media One Friday evening, the I&B ministry had said: “It appeared that telecast of reports on North-East Delhi violence had been shown in a manner which highlighted the attack on places of worship and siding towards a particular community. Channel’s reporting on Delhi violence seems to be biased as it is deliberately focusing on the vandalism of CAA supporters. It also questions RSS and alleges Delhi Police inaction. Channel seems to be critical towards Delhi Police and RSS.”
The Ministry had also charged both Media One and Asianet for “highlighting attack on places of worship” and “siding towards a particular community.”
Many people, including journalists and politicians, had strongly criticized the central government’s gag order for the TV channels.
Senior Congress leader and Lok Sabha MP, Shashi Tharoor said: “How on earth can Malayalam channels inflame communal passions in Delhi? Whereas the truly vicious propaganda channels like Ré-pubic & TimesCow continue their brazen distortions w/impunity. @asianetnewstv & @MediaOneTVLive are fine independent media. #LiftTheBan now.”
Senior journalist of India Today TV channel Rajdeep Sardesai asked: “Breaking now: Ministry of I and B bans Asianet and Media 1, both Malyalam channels for 48 hours, for their reporting on Delhi riots. Any action against govt mouthpiece channels?”
He further said: “Decisions on which channel to ban/not ban/censor should never be left to ministries/bureaucrats. Must be done by an independent body of professionals like OFCOM in UK and based on transparent procedures. Enough of the nanny state in our lives. #AsianetBan”
The Committee to Protect Journalists, an international group working on press freedom, had said: “The Indian government and Delhi police should focus on actual measures to stem the violence taking place in the city, instead of censoring news outlets and journalists for reporting on the riots.”
Former Chief Minister of Kerala and senior Congress leader Oommen Chandy said: “The move to suppress the freedom of press is worrying and condemnable. The fourth estate is the pillar of democracy. Banning Malayalam news channels, Asianet and Media One is an affront on the democratic rights of media. I strongly condemn this.”
Kerala Opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala said: “Decision to halt the telecast of Media One &Asianet news by Modi is unconstitutional & against the freedom of press. All democratic minds should unite to voice against this fascist decision. These media did a wonderful job in bringing out the gravity of communal violence in Delhi.”
Senior AAP leader and Rajya Sabha MP Sanjay Singh said: “दंगों की न्यायिक जाँच को भाजपा सरकार तैयार नही JPC नही बनायेगी फ़ास्ट ट्रैक कोर्ट का गठन नही सदन में चर्चा नही जो TV चैनल सच दिखायेगा वो बैन जो जज न्याय करेगा तो उनका ट्रान्सफ़र कर दिया जायेगा। भाजपा की हितलरशाही”
In its reaction, Media One had condemned the ban order as “a blatant attack against free and fair reporting.”
“The order issued by I&B Ministry to suspend the telecast from March 6, 19:30 to March 8 19:30 is for criticizing RSS and Delhi Police. The order also states that MediaOne has referred hate speeches made by Mr Kapil Mishra, the BJP leader, as a reason for igniting violence in Delhi. The ministry order has mentioned on our reporting about not registering FIR against hate speeches, has violated Cable TV Act. This is nothing but an order to stop free and fair journalist,” said CL Thomas, Editor In Chief of MediaOne TV.
The channel had threatened to challenge the ban in the court.