The News Broadcasters Association on Saturday said it was “shocked” that two Malayalam channels were banned without the knowledge of Information and Broadcasting Minister Prakash Javadekar, PTI reported. The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting on Saturday withdrew the 48-hour ban just hours after it was imposed late on Friday for their coverage of the communal violence in Delhi.
The channels, Asianet News and Media One, were accused in the ban order of “siding with one community”, alleging inaction by the police and for being critical of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh in the coverage of last month’s violence in North East Delhi.
Javadekar on Saturday said he would look into the matter and take “essential steps” if any wrongdoing was found. “We immediately found out what exactly happened and therefore we immediately restored the channels,” he told reporters on the sidelines of an event in Pune. “Our basic thought process is that the freedom of press is absolutely essential in the democratic set-up and that is the commitment of the Modi government.” He further said Prime Minister Narendra Modi, too, had expressed concern about the ban.
In a statement, NBA president Rajat Sharma criticised the decision to ban the channels. He said the association was “shocked to learn that a decision like this was taken without the knowledge” of Javadekar. “NBA demands that the minister should institute an inquiry as to how the order prohibiting the news channels from broadcasting was issued without his approval,” it added. “NBA would like the inquiry report to be shared with it.”
The statement also said all complaints relating to broadcast of news should be referred to the News Broadcasting Standards Authority – the self-regulatory body headed by former Supreme Court Judge (retired) AK Sikri – to avoid repetition of similar incidents in the future.
Sharma said the association welcomed the lifting of the ban and the concern shown by Modi in this matter.
The channels were suspended for 48 hours beginning 7.30 pm on Friday till 7.30 pm on Sunday. However, the ban on Asianet News was lifted at 1.30 am, while the ban on Media One was lifted at 9.30 am on Saturday.