India makes U-turn on TV ban over Delhi violence coverage

India makes U-turn on TV ban over Delhi violence coverage

The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting issued two orders today, one to each broadcaster, ordering the stations to stop airing any programs for 48 hours as a penalty for their coverage of riots in Delhi, which the ministry alleged was biased and constituted incitement, according to the orders, which CPJ reviewed, and news reports.

The channel, in its response to the show cause notice, had said that the reports published by them were factual and never meant to attack religions or communities by words or gesture. "After careful consideration of the case on the whole, the Ministry has come to the conclusion that Media One TV channel had violated Rule 6 (1) (c) & (e) of the Programme Code prescribed under the Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act, 1995 and the rules framed thereunder by telecasting said news regarding the North East Delhi violence".

The decision has been taken by the ministry after thorough deliberation on the representation made by the board members of both the Malayalam news channels.

Replying to the ministry's notice, Asianet News had said that the reports published by them were factual and never meant to attack religions or communities by word or gesture.

In two separate orders, the ministry prohibited "transmission and re-transmission" of the two channels for 48 hours- two days-starting at 7.30 pm on Friday, March 6.

Quoting the two channels' anchors and correspondents from their coverage on February 25, the orders said "such reporting could enhance communal disharmony across the country when the situation is highly volatile".

With regard to Media One channel coverage, the order of I&B Ministry read, "The channel alleged that Delhi Police remained inactive during the violence, vandalised the shops and fruit carts and set them ablaze".

The I&B ministry has taken the strict action against the two channels based on certain rules under the Cable Television Networks Rules, 1994. They have published the news stories with due care and caution and with utmost restraint after verifying the factual situation from the official authorities. Javadekar said the government always supports freedom of the press.

CPJ emailed the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting for comment but did not immediately receive any reply.

In both orders, the ministry said the coverage could lead to "communal disharmony". "This is a blatant attack against free and fair journalism", read a statement by CL Thomas, MediaOne's editor-in-chief. "We went to jails against that and we secured the freedom of press", he added.

The KUWJ said the central government was trying to impose an undeclared Emergency by imposing the ban on the channels. Similar protests were held in various parts of the state.

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