The Union Ministry of Information and Broadcasting on Saturday lifted the ban on two Kerala-based news channels over their coverage of the recent violence in Northeast Delhi.
A 48-hour ban was imposed on two Malayalam news channels, Asianet News and Media One, on Friday for as their coverage of the violence in Northeast Delhi could “enhance communal disharmony,” according to the ministry of information and broadcasting.
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, a source at the ministry of information and broadcasting told news agency PTI.
Commenting on the ban, I&B Minister Prakash Javadekar said on Saturday, “Two Kerala dailies were banned for 48 hours. We immediately found out what actually happened and therefore immediately we restored the channels. Our basic thought process is that press freedom is absolutely essential for a democratic setup”.
“And that is the commitment of the Modi government as we fought Emergency in which press freedom was muzzled. Even PM expressed concern on the issue. I will go into details and take essential steps in case of any wrongdoing. Also, everybody accepts it has to be responsible freedom,” the Union Minister added.
The ban order starting Friday night 7.30 pm saw a series of protests from various quarters condemning the government action.
Every known politician in the state had reacted sharply against the ban and attacked the Narendra Modi government for gagging the media.
According to PTI sources, the two channels had written to the ministry seeking revocation of the bans, following which it was lifted.
The Government had ordered the suspension of telecast over alleged violation of certain provisions of the Cable Television Network Rules, 1994 separately by the two channels. The ministry’s action came in the backdrop of the individual coverage of the two channels on February 25.
Pointing out that certain news reports on the two channels violated Rule 6(1)c and Rule 6(1)e of the Cable Television Act 2000, the ministry had separately issued individual show-cause notices to the two news channels.
Rule 6(1)c provides that no programme should be carried in the cable service which contains an attack on religions or communities or visuals or words contemptuous of religious groups or which promote communal attitudes.
Rule 6(1)e provides that no programme should be carried in the cable service which is likely to encourage or incite violence or contains anything against maintenance of law and order or which promotes anti-national attitudes.
On February 23 and the next two days, several parts of northeast Delhi had witnessed large scale violence for following clashes between pro- and anti-CAA groups. More than 50 people have lost their lives so far.
Condemning the gag order, the ruling CPI-M and the Congress party on Friday termed the decision of the Union government “undemocratic” and said it should be opposed by all.
The Kerala Union of Working Journalists — the biggest trade union of the journalists in the state — also condemned this act and had called for a protest march to the General Post office on Saturday morning.
State CPI-M secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan in a statement issued on Friday night said this is “nothing but a ploy of the Centre to threaten the media for coming out with truths”.
Leader of opposition and Congress veteran Ramesh Chennithala said that the Centre is taking on the media for revealing the truth of what happened in Delhi.
“Prime Minister Narendra Modi is trying to silence the media as the fascist forces now want the media to bow before them. This act of gagging the media is totally undemocratic and unacceptable,” wrote Chennithala in his Face book.
Asianet News is the first news channel that was launched in Kerala in the mid-nineties, while Media One was launched a few years back.