New Delhi: The information and broadcasting ministry Saturday lifted the ban on two Malayalam news channels — Asianet News and MediaOne TV — over their “biased” coverage of Delhi riots.
While the two news channels were taken off air at 7:30pm, Asianet News was restored around 1.30am on Sun Direct and some other platforms. It was back on air on other major DTH platforms like Tata Sky around 8am Saturday morning.
The ban on MediaOne TV was lifted at 9.30am Saturday.
Speaking to reporters in Pune in Maharashtra, the Information & Broadcasting minister Prakash Javadekar has meanwhile said the government restored the channels as soon as it found out what actually happened, and that press freedom is essential for a democratic setup.
“Two Kerala dailies were banned for 48 hours, we immediately found out what actually happened and therefore immediately we restored the channels. Our basic thought process is that press freedom is absolutely essential for a democratic setup,” Javadekar said.
He also said that Prime Minister Narendra Modi has expressed concern over the entire issue.
“And that is commitment of Modi Govt as we fought emergency in which press freedom was muzzled. So,even PM expressed concern on this issue.I will go into details & take essential steps if any wrongdoing. Also, everybody accepts it has to be responsible freedom.”
The minister said that views of the News Broadcasters Association (NBA) have been sought after he spoke with its president Rajat Sharma.
“We have sought their inputs so we will take correct actions. I am very much sure that the media will also exercise responsible freedom,” he added.
Both the channels were banned for 48 hours by the ministry citing violations of the Cable TV Act, for reportage that could “enhance communal disharmony” across the country and siding “towards a particular community”.
Sources in Asianet News told ThePrint that the board was in talks with the Ministry of Home Affairs right from 7.30pm Friday evening, and the editorial staff or management of the channel was not involved in the discussions.
“It was completely handled by the board. The channel was restored last night around 1.30 am without any formal word,” a source said, adding that the channel hasn’t been intimated about any further action which it may need to take.
While it is not known what transpired in the case of MediaOne TV, insiders told ThePrint that the channel was restored by their uplinking company, even as they maintained there was no apology from the channel’s side.
“Once the channel was suddenly restored at 9.30 am this morning, we aired our editor’s statements first ..on what transpired in these 16 hours. And he emphasised that we never made an apology,” an insider from MediaOne TV told ThePrint.
What the ministry had stated while banning the channels
The ministry’s show cause notice also stated that the visuals had questioned the RSS and the Delhi Police and seemed “critical” of both. Asianet News had responded on 3 March, stating that its reports were similar to others and did not violate the relevant rules.
MediaOne TV, in its reply, had also pointed to inaccuracies on the timing of the reportage mentioned by the ministry, claiming that it was airing a commercial break at that time.
However, the ministry, upon further examination, ruled that the channels had violated the relevant sections of the Cable TV Act and ordered the transmission of the channels to be suspended for 48 hours on all platforms.
Later Friday night, a statement issued by editor-in-chief of MediaOne TV, C.L.Thomas, said the ministry’s ban was “unfortunate and condemnable”.
“This is a naked attack against free and fair reporting. The order issued by I&B ministry to stop the telecast from March 6 19.30 hrs to March 8 19.30 hrs, states that Media One criticised RSS and Delhi Police. It also states that Media One has referred hate speeches made by Kapil Mishra, a BJP leader, as a reason for igniting violence in Delhi,” the statement read.
It said the ministry order states that the channel’s coverage about non-registration of a FIR against hate speeches violated the Cable TV Act.
“This is nothing but an order to stop free media operation in our country. MediaOne will fight legally against this unprecedented and undemocratic action made by Information and Broadcasting Ministry,” it had stated.
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