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I&B ministry lifts 48-hour ban on Asianet News, Media One

Prashasti Awasthi New Delhi | Updated on March 07, 2020

Citing that ‘media is essential for a democratic setup’, tThe Information & Broadcasting (I&B) Minister Prakash Javadekar has lifted the ban imposed on two Malayalam news channels — Asianet News and MediaOne TV. The two channels were blocked over their “biased” coverage of Delhi riots, as per media reports.

The services of two news channels were suspended at 7:30 pm on Friday. Hours later, ministry restored their services. Asianet News was restored around 1.30 am on March 7. And, the ban on MediaOne TV was lifted at 9.30 am Saturday.

Delhi violence coverage

I&B Ministry had, earlier, banned the news channels for their extensive coverage of the Delhi violence that erupted last week. The Broadcast Ministry alleged that the channels were biased towards one community and were critical towards “Delhi Police and Rashtriya Sevak Sangh (RSS)”. The two channels covered violence for 48 hours, Indian Express reported.

In two separate orders furnished against the channels, the Ministry accused them of “highlighting the attack on places of worship” and “siding towards a particular community”. The orders also mentioned that the channels focused only on the “vandalism of CAA supporters, as per the Indian Express report.

I&B Ministry mentioned in the two separate orders, that the channels violated Programme Code of the Cable TV Network (Regulations) Act, 1995.

Media One Editor-in-Chief C L Thomas described the decision as the “biggest encroachment of a government on freedom of the media.”

He said to Indian Express: “In the history of India, such a ban has never happened. During the Emergency period, there were restrictions on the media. Now, the country is not going through Emergency. The decision to bar TV channels is a warning to all media houses in the country that they should not criticize the government.’’ 

Media One is owned by Madhyamam Broadcasting Limited which is backed by Jamaat-e-Islami.

While Asianet News is indirectly owned by BJP Rajya Sabha MP Rajeev Chandrasekhar. 

‘Biased reporting’ 

The I&B Ministry stated in its order against Media One News: “Channel’s reporting on Delhi violence seems to be biased as it is deliberately focusing on the vandalism of CAA (Citizenship Amendment Act) supporters.”

It noted that such telecast could incite violence and pose danger to the maintenance of law and order situation, especially in the times when the situation in Delhi is delicate. It further stated: It could also stoke the feelings of anger, hatred, and animosity among the communities and hurt their religious sentiments, which could ultimately result in the escalation of violence.”

The Ministry stated that the channels appeared to have contravened rules 6(1)(C) and 6(1)(a) of the Cable Television Networks Rules.

The Ministry said it found certain biased comments including the anchor’s remark on the Union Home Ministry said that “Centre assured people that the situation is under control, but in reality, everything is getting out of hand.”

It refers to the report as saying: “Provocative speech of BJP leader in Jafrabad has led to the violence and it seems vandals were prepared to target anti-CAA protesters… Delhi Police has failed to register an FIR for hate speech. But the most significant thing is the inefficiency of Delhi Police in containing the violence. In many areas, police paved the way for vandals to roam free with weapons and carry out attacks and arson,” Indian Express report added.

While in its order on Asianet News, the Ministry mentioned that the “anchor/ correspondent” blamed Centre for giving silent consent to the violence. 

In both the orders, the Ministry asked the channels to report “with the utmost care and in a balanced way.”

Channels defended themselves in a response saying that “it is the lawfully accepted duty of the media under Article 19 (1) (a) read with Article 15(2) of the Constitution of India to bonafide investigate and report news truly and correctly… As a recognized news channel, the news in question telecast by Media One is in the exercise of the fundamental rights guaranteed under the Constitution of India,” according to the Indian Express report

They also added that their news was credible and there was no intention to incite communal disharmony. The channels maintained that they are dedicated to informing the public.

 

 

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Published on March 07, 2020
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