New Delhi: The Information and Broadcasting (I&B) ministry has decided to ban two Malayalam news channels for 48 hours over their “biased” coverage of the Delhi riots, stating that their reports sided “towards a particular community” among other violations of the Cable TV Act.
The channels include MediaOne TV and Asianet News. Their transmissions will now be restored on 8 March. The ministry had earlier issued an advisory asking television channels not to telecast content that may incite violence during the Delhi riots.
The orders dated 6 March, state that the visuals shown in the news report carried by Asianet News and MediaOne TV on 25 February highlighted the attack on places of worship and sided “towards a particular community”.
There was no official comment from the ministry.
According to the order, the channels violated Rule 6 (1)(c) of the Cable TV Network Rules, 1994, which states that no programme should be carried in cable services that contains attacks on religions or communities or visuals or words contemptuous of religious groups or which promote communal attitudes.
The order says that the channels also violated Rule 6(1)(e), which states that no programme should be carried on cable service that is likely to encourage or incite violence or contains anything against maintenance of law and order or which promote anti-national attitudes.
The I&B ministry keeps a track of content broadcast by all television channels, including news channels, primarily through its media unit Electronic Media Monitoring Centre (EMMC).
In 2016, the ministry had ordered a 24-hour ban on the Hindi news channel NDTV India for its coverage of the attack on the Pathankot base of the Indian Air Force. It was later put on hold by the government. The move was widely condemned by media watchers who said the channel was unfairly singled out.
Reports do not promote communal attitudes: Asianet News
The ministry had issued a show cause notice to the channel on 28 February asking why action should not be taken against it under provisions of the uplinking/downlinking guidelines and Section 20 of the Cable TV Act.
The channel had, in its reply on 3 March, maintained that its reports were neither contemptuous of any religious group nor promoted communal attitudes. It has also said that it did not carry any programme to intentionally incite violence or promote anti-national attitudes.
In its order, however, the ministry has also concluded that the channel violated Rule 6 (1)(c) and (e) of the Programme Code prescribed under the Cable TV Networks (Regulation Act), 1995, and the rules under it.
“Such reporting could enhance the communal disharmony across the country when the situation is highly volatile,” the order states. “…it is abundantly clear that the channel has not adhered to the programme codes and has shown irresponsibility by not fully complying to them.”
MediaOneTV had questioned RSS, Delhi Police: Order
Regarding the coverage of MediaOne TV, the ministry had observed that the channel’s reporting on the violence seems to be biased as it “deliberately focused on the vandalism by supporters of the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA)”.
The ministry show cause notice also stated that the visuals had questioned the RSS and the Delhi Police. The channel had responded on 3 March, stating that its reports were similar to others and it did not violate the relevant rules.
The ministry, however, on further examination ruled that the channel had violated the relevant sections of the Cable TV Act and ordered the transmission of the channel be suspended for 48 hours on all platforms.
The channel has decried the order as “undeclared Emergency on the media and democracy”. “We will approach the courts over the order,” said C. Dawood, MediaOne TV’s Managing Editor. “The order even mentions that the reportage was critical of the RSS and the Delhi Police. This is an undeclared Emergency on the media and democracy.”