Television channel Media One on Friday responded to an order from the Centre that banned it for 48 hours for its coverage of the violence in parts of Delhi last week. The Centre on Friday banned Asianet News and Media One for showing content on February 25 that “highlighted the attack on places of worship and siding towards a particular community”.
A statement from Media One said they would fight the Centre’s “unfortunate and condemnable” decision legally. “This is a blatant attack against free and fair reporting,” it said. “The order also states that MediaOne has referred to hate speeches made by Mr Kapil Mishra, the BJP leader in Delhi, as a reason for igniting violence in Delhi.” It added that the government’s move was “nothing but an order to stop free and fair journalism.”
Media One Editor-in-Chief CL Thomas said such a ban has never been imposed in the history of India, The Indian Express reported. “During the Emergency period, there were restrictions on the media,” he said. “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 criticise the government.”
Asianet News Editor MG Radhakrishnan declined to react on Friday. “We don’t want to react at this moment,” he said. “We will take a collective look at the issue and come out with our view later.”
On Saturday morning, both Asianet News and Media One appeared to be back on air.
The order for Media One also said the channel’s reporting seemed to be “biased” as it “deliberately focused on the vandalism of the CAA [Citizenship Amendment Act] supporters”. “It [the channel] also questions RSS and alleges Delhi Police inaction,” the order said. “Channel seems to be critical towards Delhi Police and RSS”.
The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh is the ideological parent of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party. The riots in Delhi have left at least 53 persons dead and over 200 injured.
Media One is owned by Madhyamam Broadcasting Limited, which is financially backed by the Jamaat-e-Islami group. However, Asianet News is under the indirect control of Rajya Sabha BJP MP Rajeev Chandrashekhar.
Several journalists and editors from television channels and publications on Friday also criticised the government’s order banning the two Malayalam TV channels for 48 hours for their coverage of the violence in North East Delhi.
Nidheesh MK, an assistant editor at Mint, said all networks in Kerala “are in shock”. “The ban on Asianet & Media One for 48 hrs is probably the first-of-its-kind censorship in Kerala,” Nidheesh tweeted.
He said that the fledgling BJP in Kerala will not receive any goodwill over the ban. “Beyond the political storm, Asianet was known to be the harshest critic of [Chief Minister] Pinarayi Vijayan, BJP’s No.1 enemy in Kerala,” he said.
NDTV Editorial Director Sonia Singh said the Centre is an “interested party” in the case and therefore cannot issue a ban. “A decision like this cannot be taken by an interested party in the case, this must be decided by an independent regulator, a Broadcasting Commission similar to the Election Commission or a court or law,” she tweeted. “This is completely arbitrary.”
Here are some other reactions: