A massive shock came over to the people of Kerala when two of their most-watched TV news channels –Asianet News and Media One– were banned for 48 hours, starting 7:30 pm, on March 6, 2020. This ban was imposed by the Central Government, signed by Amit Katoch, due to the way they had reported the Delhi riots.
According to the claim made by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, the two channels had violated the model code of conduct in airing the news.
The surprising fact is, Asianet News Network operates as a subsidiary of Jupiter Entertainment Ventures (Jupiter Capital Ventures). Rajeev Chandrasekhar, a Bharatiya Janata Party Member of Parliament in the Council of States from Karnataka is the Chairman of Jupiter Capital. He runs the Pro-BJP Republic TV channel as well.
Why the ban?
Both the channels have been alleged to air crucial reports during the riots that killed 53, against the directive of top authorities (Central Government, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh or RSS as well as the Delhi police among others) and also siding with one particular community, all the while highlighting the attacks on the worship places.
“Channel’s reporting on Delhi violence seems to be biased as it is deliberately focusing on the vandalism of CAA supporters,” the ministry order on Media One had said. “It also questions RSS and alleges Delhi Police inaction. Channel seems to be critical towards Delhi Police and RSS.”
According to the I&B’s order, it was said that both the news channels violated Cable Television Network Rules 1994–“no programme should be carried in the cable service which attacks religions or communities or visuals or words contemptuous of religious groups or which promote communal attitudes”.
The ministry order toward MediaOne stated that the way the channel reported the Delhi riots showed that it was biased, as it focused on showing the vandalism of the CAA supporters. The channel also questioned the RSS and also said that the Delhi Police was inactive. It seemed critical towards both Delhi Police and RSS.
Response from the Media Channels
Asianet News and MediaOne were given showcase notices on February 28, wherein they defended their style of reporting under the free speech arguments. They also pointed out some alleged factual mistakes in the Notice.
The chief editor of Asianet News, M.G. Radhakrishnan, refused to say anything about the matter apart from stating that they were informed about the ban only moments before it came into existence. Although Media One made no immediate comments, it later replied: “The Notice stating the timing of the telecast of the news in question is not correct. On facts, the Notice says that the timing of the incident was at 00:03 am. In fact, there was a commercial break from 00:29 to 00:32 after which there was a recorded program “Weekend Arabia”.
However, it also defended the coverage of alleged report stating: “It is reiterated that the news reports telecast by Media One about the incident, which happened in northeast Delhi do not constitute any breach of Rule L994, 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.”
MediaOne also issued a statement on the order: “This is nothing but an order to stop free and fair journalism. MediaOne will fight legally against this unprecedented and undemocratic action imposed by the Information and Broadcasting Ministry.”
Result of the ban:
However, the action of banning the channel came with a load of criticism against the BJP in Kerala. CPM Kerala general secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan said, “Such orders are not favourable in a democracy. Central government’s action is a fascist one.”
In a Facebook post, Congress legislator VT Balram said, “The government is demanding silence and total subordination. People can decide how to react against this. People will decide.”
BJP Kerala leader K. Surendran welcomed the action. “A communal riot in the national capital should have been reported with utmost restrain and wisdom,” he said in a Facebook post.
The ban was lifted: Here’s when and why
The ban which came into force was lifted on March 7. According to a source, the ban on Asianet News was lifted at 1.30 am, while the one on Media One was lifted at 9.30 am, after the two channels sent a request to the Ministry for the revocation of ban.
It seems that the revocation of the ban was also due to the Congress and CPI coming down hard on the Central Government over the action and calling it “stifling of media freedom”.
News Media Houses Nowadays
Newspapers and News Media houses publish various unrelated news which indirectly harming the nation rather than doing any good. The media nowadays seems to be mere puppets in the hands of the rich and the powerful is an unfortunate thing to witness.
Media plays a vital role in a democratic country like India, as it is the one that brings out the corrupted side of politics, politicians and wealthy people. However, many times these channels either air biased news to create confusion/influence the mindset of the public as well as for publicity and sales promotion tactic.
A developing democratic country like India still needs a lot of monitoring and planning. Hence, it should be made a point that irrelevant/fake/disturbing news must not be allowed to be aired or circulated.