After PM's concern, ban on 2 channels revoked

NEW DELHI: The government on Saturday revoked within hours the 48-hour telecast ban it had imposed on Media One and Asianet News, two Malayalam language channels, for “biased” reporting of the Delhi riots, after Prime Minister Narendra Modi “expressed concern” over the turn of events.
While Asianet News came back on air around 1.30am on Saturday, Media One resumed transmission at 9.40am. The government order had banned the telecast of the two channels from 7.30pm on March 6.
The Friday order banned the telecast of Media One for allegedly deliberately focusing on vandalism by CAA supporters. Its coverage, the order said, “questions RSS and alleges Delhi Police inaction”, and appeared to be “critical towards Delhi Police and RSS”. Asianet News, on the other hand, came under government fire because it “highlighted the attack on places of worship and was leaning towards a particular community”.
After widespread criticism and an outcry from the journalistic community and opposition, I&B minister Prakash Javadekar said he had the order revoked soon after he learned of it and after PM Modi also “expressed concern over the course of action”. Javadekar also said he will launch an inquiry into how such an order was issued and question the officers concerned of the I&B ministry.
“Two Kerala channels were banned for 48 hours. We immediately found out what actually happened and, therefore, we immediately restored the channels … one of the channel owners talked to me and by night, Asianet was on. By morning, Media One was also on. Our basic thought process is that press freedom is absolutely essential in a democratic set-up and that is the commitment of the Modi government because we fought [against] the Emergency in which press freedom was muzzled,” Javadekar said.
The I&B minister also said he will go into details of the incident and take essential steps “if there is any wrongdoing”. “But let me also tell you that everybody accepts that media must exercise responsible freedom,” he said.
Conventionally, government orders are uploaded on the ministry’s website. In this instance, however, the last order of the ministry was uploaded on March 5. Sources also told TOI that the order was not served on both channels formally, but only conveyed to them through the uplinking agencies.
On Saturday, the News Broadcasters’ Association condemned the ministry’s decision. While NBA president Rajat Sharma appreciated the concern shown by the PM, he added that NBA was “shocked to learn that a decision like this was taken without the knowledge of the I&B minister”.
“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. NBA would like the inquiry report to be shared with it,” Sharma said in a statement. He demanded all complaints relating to broadcast of news be referred to the News Broadcasting Standards Authority to “avoid recurrence of similar incidents in future”.
Criticising the government for its decision, senior Congress functionary P Chidambaram said the reasons cited to impose the ban, and the act of banning channels, were both “atrocious”. CPM chief Sitaram Yechury also condemned the action as “undemocratic and authoritarian”.

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