Centre cites security reasons but doesn't give details, says editor
Thiruvananthapuram: The Union Government on Monday barred the telecast of Malayalam news channel MediaOne citing "security reasons", but the Kerala High Court stayed the implementation of the order for two days.
The Centre's move drew the ire of many including the ruling Left party and the Opposition Congress, both condemning the decision and terming the move as "undemocratic".
"The telecast of MediaOne channel has once again been disallowed by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Government of India, citing security reasons. The Government has not been forthcoming with the details," Pramod Raman, the Editor of MediaOne, said in a statement here.
Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said the ban was a serious matter and it was the responsibility of those who believe in democracy to protect Article 19 of the Indian Constitution, which grants the freedom of speech and expression.
"Freedom of expression is an integral part of the fundamental rights guaranteed by the Constitution. It should not be violated. There should be room for diverse opinions otherwise democracy itself will be in danger. Society needs to be vigilant to ensure that Article 19 is not violated," Vijayan said.
The chief minister in his statement said the reason behind the ban on telecast was not clear and a Constitutional solution should be reached.
The order of the Information and Broadcasting ministry, as shared by the MediaOne channel shows that the Ministry of Home Affairs had denied security clearance to the channel, under Madhyamam Broadcasting Limited, for renewal of permission.
The order says that a show cause notice was issued to MediaOne to which the channel replied that they were unaware of the "grounds of denial of security clearance" and requested not to initiate further proceedings.
"Since the Ministry of Home Affairs has denied the security clearance. The channel cannot be allowed to operate (sic)," the order read.
The media house later in the day challenged the order before the Kerala High Court which put on hold its implementation for two days.
While putting on hold the order, Justice N Nagaresh also sought the Centre's stand on the plea moved by Madhyamam Broadcasting Ltd which operates MediaOne channel.
Senior advocate S Sreekumar and advocate K Rakesh, who represented the media group, told the high court that the channel was not involved in any anti-national activity and urged it to direct the ministry to withdraw the order.
Speaking to PTI, Rakesh said the ministry's order was received around 1 PM on Monday and by 1.45 PM the plea was filed and by 3 PM permission was granted for urgent hearing of the matter. He confirmed that the court put on hold the order till Wednesday, the next date of hearing.
Assistant Solicitor General S Manu, who appeared for the ministry, said he opposed the plea and sought time from the court to get appropriate instructions from the Centre.
Therefore, the court listed the matter on Wednesday and till then put on hold the implementation of the order, he added.
The ruling CPI(M) condemned the ban and said it was part of the union government's agenda to control the media.
"The Union government is trying to control media houses one by one. The ban on telecast of MediaOne was part of the union government's agenda to control the media. The decision is condemnable," it said in a statement.
Meanwhile, Leader of Opposition in Kerala Assembly, V D Satheesan slammed the I&B move.
"The banning of telecast of MediaOne channel without citing any reason was undemocratic. This is against natural justice. The Union government has a responsibility to cite the reason behind the ban. The government is trying to implement the agenda of Sangh Parivar which has been intolerant against unpleasant truths," he said.
He said the ban amounts to attack on media freedom.
MediaOne, along with another Malayalam News channel, Asianet, was briefly suspended for 48 hours over their coverage of communal violence in Delhi in 2020, with the official orders then saying they covered the violence in a manner that "highlighted the attack on places of worship and siding towards a particular community".
"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, adding, "it also questions RSS and alleges Delhi Police inaction. Channel seems to be critical towards Delhi Police and RSS."