The Narendra Modi government on Friday banned two Malayalam news channels – Asianet News and Media One – for 48 hours for their coverage of the violence in North East Delhi last week. The bans began at 7.30 pm on Friday.
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 “highlighted the attack on places of worship and siding towards a particular community”. February 25 was the third day of the clashes.
The order for Media One also said the channel’s reporting seemed to be “biased” as it “deliberately focused on the vandalism of the CAA [Citizenship Amendment Act] supporters”. “It also questions RSS and alleges Delhi Police inaction,” the order said. “Channel seems to be critical towards Delhi Police and RSS”.
The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh is the ideological parent of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party.
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”.
The suspensions came after 53 people died in large-scale communal violence in parts of Delhi between February 23 and 26, raising questions about the effectiveness of the police in responding to the situation.
The ministry said both channels had violated two provisions under the Cable Television Networks Rules, 1994 – one prohibiting coverage of attacks on religions, and another prohibiting coverage that could incite violence or promote “anti-national attitudes” or disturb law and order.
On February 25, the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting had asked all private satellite TV channels to be cautious about content that may instigate violence or promote “anti-national” attitudes.