Two channels, banned for reporting on Delhi anti-Muslim violence, back on air

Asianet News and MediaOne TV – that were banned for 48 hours on Friday over their coverage of last week’s Delhi anti-Muslim violence are back on air.

The two news channels were taken off air at 7:30 pm on Friday for reporting on Delhi violence in northeast Delhi last week that killed more than 53 people, injured over 500.

While Asianet was back on air at 1:30 am on Saturday, the broadcasting of MediaOne TV resumed this morning.

In its orders, the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting said the two channels appeared to have covered the violence on February 25 in a manner that “provocative, could have incited violence, were biased and critical of the RSS and Delhi police, sided with a particular community and showed those who supported the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) in poor light”.

A statement from Media One Editor-in-Chief CL Thomas said they would fight the Centre’s “unfortunate and condemnable” decision legally. “This is a blatant attack against free and fair reporting,” it said. “The order also states that MediaOne has referred to hate speeches made by Mr Kapil Mishra, the BJP leader in Delhi, as a reason for igniting violence in Delhi.” It added that the government’s move was “nothing but an order to stop free and fair journalism.”

Thomas said such a ban has never been imposed in the history of India, The Indian Express reported. “During the Emergency period, there were restrictions on the media,” he said. “Now the country is not going through Emergency. The decision to bar TV channels is a warning to all media houses in the country that they should not criticise the government.

“It appeared that the telecast of the reports on North-East Delhi violence had been shown in a manner that highlighted the attack on places of worship and siding towards a particular community. The channel’s reporting on Delhi violence seems to be biased as it is deliberately focusing on the vandalism of CAA supporters. It also questions RSS and alleges Delhi Police inaction. The channel seems to be critical towards Delhi Police and RSS,” the government order which sent to MediaOne said.

The ministry said Asianet had referred to the attacks as “communal violence” and its anchor/ correspondent had said “the centre gave silent consent for the violence”.

It added that it had examined a copy of the telecast, which included comments like “…commuters on the road are forced to chant Jai Shri Ram… Muslims are brutally attacked… (and) centre can control the violence within hours, but no action has been taken”.

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