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MHA denial of security clearance to MediaOne justified, says Kerala HC; upholds bar on channel telecast

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Kochi, Feb 8 (PTI) The Kerala High Court on Tuesday said the denial of security clearance to Malayalam news channel MediaOne by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) was “justified” and upheld the Centre’s decision to bar its telecast.

Justice N Nagaresh also declined to keep his order in abeyance for a few days to enable the channel to appeal against it, saying since national security was involved, he was not inclined to grant any such relief.

“I am not inclined to extend the interim order even for an hour since national security is involved,” the judge said and dismissed the plea of Madhyamam Broadcasting Ltd — which operates MediaOne — challenging the central government’s January 31 decision.

The court had on January 31 put on hold the Centre’s decision for 2 days and on February 2 it was extended till February 7 when it was further extended for one more day.

“Having gone through the files produced by the MHA, I find that the ministry has called for reports from various intelligence agencies and based on the inputs received from the intelligence agencies, a committee of officers recommended that security clearance should not be renewed.

“MHA also considered the entire facts and accepted the recommendation of the committee of officers. Going through the files, I find that there are inputs which justify the decision of the MHA,” Justice Nagaresh said.

The court also dismissed the pleas filed by some employees, including the Editor, of the channel and a trade union of journalists challenging the Centre’s January 31 decision barring telecast of MediaOne.

The Centre, opposing the pleas, had contended that a security clearance once issued cannot continue forever.

Assistant Solicitor General S Manu had told the court the pleas moved by the trade union and the employees were not maintainable as the issue was between the central government and the company.

The central government had previously also told the court that the MHA denied security clearance to MediaOne over national security concerns based on intelligence inputs.

The channel, on the other hand, contended that MHA clearance was only required at the time for fresh permission/license and not at the time of renewal.

It had also contended that, according to the uplinking and downlinking guidelines, security clearance was only required at the time of application for fresh permission and not at the time of renewal of licence.

Disagreeing with the channel’s contention, the court, in its 42-page judgment, said that according to the downlinking guidelines, even at the time of considering renewal of permission, security clearance was mandatory.

“The contention of the petitioners that the security clearance is a one time affair and is not required at the time of renewal of licence, therefore, cannot be accepted,” it said.

The court further said that while the freedom of the press was “a valuable and sacred right” under Article 19 the Constitution, it was of the view that such rights have certain exceptions which empower the State to impose reasonable restrictions.

After the order was pronounced, MediaOne’s editor — Pramod Raman — told media that the channel has stopped its operations and it would be filing an appeal against the single judge’s decision before a larger bench.

“We will continue the legal battle against the Centre’s decision,” he said.

The Kerala Union of Working Journalists (KUWJ), Raman and some employees of the channel, represented by senior advocate Jaju Babu, had contended before the high court that hundreds of employees of the channel will be deprived of a livelihood if the Centre’s decision is not set aside.

The journalists union and the channel’s employees had also contended that no violation of the permission or any Act or Rules have been alleged and therefore, the action taken by the Centre was “illegal and unconstitutional”.

This was not the first time the channel has faced such a bar on its operation.

MediaOne, along with another Malayalam News channel, Asianet, was briefly suspended for 48 hours over their coverage of communal violence in Delhi in 2020, with the official orders saying they covered the violence in a manner that “highlighted the attack on places of worship and siding towards a particular community”. PTI HMP BN BN

This report is auto-generated from PTI news service. ThePrint holds no responsibility for its content.

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