Govt talks about press freedom after lifting ban on Malayalam channels

The ban was imposed on Friday for their coverage of the recent communal violence in northeast Delhi

Prakash Javadekar
I&B Minister Prakash Javadekar hoped that the release of the SOPs will not only lead to the resumption of the shooting of films and TV serials, but also generate employment. | PTI File

Hours after the central government lifted the 48-hour ban on two Malayalam channels, Union Information and Broadcasting Minister Prakash Javadekar on Saturday (March 7) said the BJP-led NDA government at the Centre supports freedom of press.

The Centre had imposed the ban on Friday on the two channels — Asianet News and Media One — for their coverage of the recent communal violence in northeast Delhi. The ban was lifted on Saturday after the move faced severe criticism.

Speaking to reporters in Pune in Maharashtra, Javadekar said that he would look into the matter and issue orders if necessary. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has express concern over the issue, he added. He also advocated “responsible freedom” for media.

“Two Kerala channels were banned for 48 hours. We immediately found out what exactly happened and therefore we immediately restored the channels,” Javadekar said.

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The minister said that transmission of Asianet News was restored on Friday night after its owner talked to him, and that of Media One on Saturday morning.

“Our basic thought process is that the freedom of press is absolutely essential in the democratic set up and that is the commitment of Modi government,” he said.

Referring to the Emergency, Javadekar said the freedom of press was suppressed in those days. “We went to jails against that and we secured the freedom of press,” he added. He said Prime Minister Narendra Modi has expressed concern over the entire issue.

“I will definitely go into the details and take essential steps if there is any wrongdoing. But let me also tell you that everybody should accept that there has to be responsible freedom,” Javadekar said.

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The minister said that views of the News Broadcasters Association (NBA) have been sought after he spoke with its president Rajat Sharma. “We have sought their inputs so we will take correct actions. I am very much sure that the media will also exercise responsible freedom,” he added.

The channels were suspended for 48 hours over their coverage of the last month’s communal violence in Delhi, with the official orders saying that they covered events on February 25 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. “It also questions RSS and alleges Delhi Police inaction. Channel seems to be critical towards Delhi Police and RSS.”

The ministry had ordered prohibition of transmission or re-transmission of Media One and Asianet News for 48 hours on any platform throughout India with effect from 7.30 pm on Friday to 7.30 pm on Sunday.

(With inputs from agencies)

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