Both Malayalam news channels that were banned by the Centre on Friday night for their coverage of last week’s communal violence in Delhi were back on air by Saturday morning. Union Minister for Information and Broadcasting Prakash Javadekar said the Centre had revoked the 48-hour bans on Asianet News and Media One as the government “supports the freedom of the press”, PTI reported.
While Asianet News came back on air around 1.30 am on Saturday, Media One resumed transmission at 9.40 am, The News Minute reported. The Union Ministry of Information and Broadcasting had banned the two channels until 7.30 pm on March 8 for allegedly showing biased content and highlighting the attacks on places of worship during the Delhi violence.
After the bans were revoked, Javadekar claimed Prime Minister Narendra Modi had expressed concern over the matter. He said he would look into the matter and take steps if there was any wrongdoing. “We immediately found out what exactly happened and therefore we immediately restored the channels,” Javadekar told reporters. “Our basic thought process is that the freedom of press is absolutely essential in the democratic set up and that is the commitment of Modi government.”
However, the minister asserted that “everybody should accept that there has to be responsible freedom”.
The order for Media One had 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 [Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh] and alleges Delhi Police inaction,” the order said. “Channel seems to be critical towards Delhi Police and RSS”.
An unidentified official at Asianet News told The News Minute that the channel’s board made a representation to the Information and Broadcasting Ministry on Friday night, following which the ban was lifted. Media One, which had not made a representation, received a message around 9.30 am that transmission was being resumed.
A statement from Media One on Friday had 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”.
Asianet News Editor MG Radhakrishnan had refused to comment on the matter.
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 Chandrasekhar.