Delhi Unrest: Centre Lifts Ban on News Channels Asianet, MediaOne

The ministry also claimed that MediaOne accused Delhi Police of remaining inactive during clashes.

4 min read
Violence erupted in northeast Delhi in last week of February.

Malayalam channels Asianet News and MediaOne, which were banned for 48 hours on Friday, 6 March, by I&B ministry for their coverage of Delhi violence last week, are both back on air, ANI reported on Saturday.

The two news channels were taken off air at 7:30 pm on Friday, and were supposed to be able to resume broadcast only at 7:30 pm on 8 March.

Channels React to Lifting of Ban

According to The News Minute, a source in Asianet said that the channel's board made a representation to the I&B Ministry on Friday night, following which the ban was taken off.

Asianet News Editor M G Radhakrishnan said his channel's management had contacted the ministry after the ban was imposed and spoken with relevant people, explaining the channel's position.

However, Media One Editor-in-chief C L Thomas said his channel had not reached out to the government and the ministry had "suo motu" revoked the ban, PTI reported.

The News Minute reported, quoting a source in the channel, that MediaOne received a message from the ministry around 9.30 am on Saturday that the transmission was being resumed.

While Asianet returned to air around 1.30 am on Saturday, MediaOne resumed at 9.40 am, the report said.

"We were proceeding for legal action. Today we got the information that the ban has been revoked, so we did not go ahead with the legal proceedings. We did not contact anyone in the ministry, the government suo motu lifted the ban," Thomas told PTI.

"We are happy that the ministry has suo motu lifted the ban. We will continue on the same path we have been following and upholding the classical values of journalism," he said.

Radhakrishnan said the channel's management spoke with the I&B ministry in an effort to "convince them".

"They (management) seemed to have succeeded in their attempt. Since it was night there was no time for making any formal application. They spoke with all the people concerned in the ministry and convinced them. That is what the minister has also come out saying today," he told PTI.

Media One and Asianet News TV were earlier issued a show cause notice and after they filed their replies, the ministry “found them to be in violation” of the Programme Code prescribed under the Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act, 1995.

The orders from the broadcast ministry alleged that the two news channels showed provocative content that could have incited violence, and the coverage of the violence seemed biased as it is deliberately focusing on the vandalism of CAA supporters, reported The News Minute.

The ministry also claimed that MediaOne accused Delhi Police of remaining inactive during clashes.

‘Unfortunate, Condemnable’

In a statement issued after the ban, MediaOne TV Editor-in-Chief CL Thomas called the ban “unfortunate and condemnable”, adding that this was a “blatant attack on free and fair reporting.”

“MediaOne will fight legally against this unprecedented and undemocratic action by I&B ministry,” the statement further said.

According to the The Indian Express, in response to the show cause notice, MediaOne had earlier stated that the allegations made are “arbitrary and unreasonable”.

MediaOne is owned by Madhayamam Publications, a media group that also has members from the Jamaat-e-Islami Hind in Kerala, The News Minute reported.

Speaking to The Indian Express, Asianet News Editor M G Radhakrishnan said, “We don’t want to react at this moment. We will take a collective look at the issue and come out with our view later.”

Asianet News is owned by Jupiter capital, a financial services company that was established by BJP Rajya Sabha MP Rajeev Chandrasekhar.

On 25 February, the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting had ordered all private TV channels to be careful about content that may incite violence.

Press Freedom Essential for Democratic Setup: Javadekar

I&B Minister Prakash Javadekar told ANI that when the government found out what had actually happened, they immediately restored the channels. “Our basic thought process is that press freedom is absolutely essential for a democratic setup,” he said.

The minister asserted that press freedom is a commitment of the Modi government, and that in light of this, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had “expressed concern on this issue.” The minister said he would look into the details of the ban and take necessary steps if there was any wrongdoing, while also noting that it was accepted that press freedom has to be “responsible freedom”.

Kerala CM Flays Ban

Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, on Saturday, came down heavily on the Centre for the ban, saying an "undeclared emergency" was prevailing in the country, PTI reported.

Terming the ban as a “dangerous trend”, the left leader said it was an indication of the coming dangers.

"The Centre has made an infringement into the freedom of the press, crossing all limits. There is a threat that if anybody criticises RSS and Sangh Parivar, they will be taught a lesson," he said in Thiruvananthapuram in a statement.

Urging everyone to adopt a "democratic vigil" against such trends, the Chief Minister said the tactics of the Centre was to bring everyone under its control by instilling fear, according to PTI.

People have the right to know what is happening in the country and the media has the right and responsibility to report it, Vijayan said adding that the fourth estate should be allowed to act "freely and equitably".

Chidambaram Asks Media if They are Afraid of Being Banned

During his press conference on the Yes Bank crisis, former Finance Minister in the UPA government, P Chidambaram, noted that Opposition leaders had condemned the bans on the channels overnight or in the morning, and asked reporters present if they weren’t asking the government tough questions about the banking crisis because they are afraid of being banned.

“Why are you not asking the government this question? Are you afraid that they will ban you like they banned Asianet and MediaOne yesterday? Even after banning Asianet and MediaOne – which we all condemned overnight or early this morning – they lifted it at 9:30. So, don’t worry about asking questions... go ahead and ask questions.”
P Chidambaram, Former Finance Minister

(With inputs from PTI, The News Minute and The Indian Express .)

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