Delhi riots coverage: Centre bans Malayalam channels Asianet News, MediaOne for 48 hours
According to the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, the channels' coverage on February 25, the third day of the Delhi riots, violated provisions of the Cable Television Networks Rules, 1994
Malayalam news channels Asianet and MediaOne have been barred for 48 hours by the central government for their coverage of the Delhi riots.
In a notification, the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting cited violations by the channels, which included highlighting “the attack on places of worship”, siding “towards a particular community” and being “critical towards Delhi Police and RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh)”.
The order referred to the channels’ coverage of the violence on February 25, the third day of the communal violence.
According to the ministry, the channels violated the Cable Television Networks Rules, 1994 that bar programmes which contain “attack on religions or communities” or "visuals or words contemptuous of religious groups or which promote communal attitudes”.
Their coverage also violated the rule that bars programmes that “incite violence or contain anything against maintenance of law and order or which promote anti-national attitude,” it said.
The communal violence in Delhi, between February 23 and 26, had resulted in over 50 deaths. Many had raised questions over the inefficiency of the police and government machinery in responding to the violence.
What did the channels report?
While reporting from Jaffrabad, Ashok Nagar and Maujpur areas, the Asianet News reporter said that the Delhi police were mute spectators to the communal violence and the central government gave silent consent to it.
“While reporting such critical incident, the channel (Asianet News TV) should have taken utmost care and should have reported it in a balanced way. Such reporting could enhance the communal disharmony across the country when the situation is highly volatile,” the order said.
MediaOne attracted the temporary ban, among other reasons cited, because of a phone-in conversation it carried with its Delhi correspondent, in which it was alleged that “the provocative speech of BJP leader in Jafrabad has led to the violence" and "vandals were prepared to target anti-CAA protesters.”
“In many areas Police paved the way for vandals to roam free with weapons and carry out attacks and arson,” the correspondent had said.
The ministry said that the coverage by the channel was “biased as it is deliberately focusing on the vandalism of CAA supporters. It also questions RSS and alleges Delhi Police inaction. Channel seems to be critical towards Delhi Police and RSS.”
RSS is the ideological parent of the Bharatiya Janata Pary (BJP), which is in power at the centre.
Response from the channels
Asianet News denied any violations of the rules. It told the central government that the reports it published were ”factual and never intended to attack religions or communities by word or gesture”.
“The reports… [were] all in accordance with their obligation as a responsible and experienced Media organization that upholds the values enshrined in the Constitution to safeguard their great democracy,” it said.
MediaOne too denied any violations. “It is the lawfully accepted duties of the media under Article 19 (1) (a) read with Article 15(2) of the Constitution of India to bonafide investigate and report news truly and correctly. They have only discharged that duty,” the channel replied to the ministry.
On 25 February, the central government had issued an advisory to all the private satellite TV channels against content that could instigate violence or promote “anti-national” attitudes.
Both the channels have been taken off air since Friday evening.
Read the full text of the orders: