Eminent Personalities – The New Indian Express
NEW DELHI: Several parliamentarians, lawyers, editors and activists on Monday showed their support for Malayalam news channel MediaOne, saying the Centre’s revocation of its license for “unspecified” security reasons represents “a crackdown freedom of the press in India”.
They also expressed ‘disappointment’ at the Kerala High Court’s ruling on the matter, saying it refused to overturn the government’s cancellation of the news channel’s license and protect the right fundamental to freedom of speech and expression.
“The decision of the Kerala HC Single Judge Bench was based on a ‘sealed’ envelope provided by the (Union) Ministry of Home (MHA), the contents of which were not shared with MediaOne News” , they said in a joint statement.
They hoped the high court division bench, which reserved judgment on appeals against the single bench order, would protect the channel’s fundamental right to free speech and expression and restore its license transmission.
Digvijay Singh from Congress, Kanimozhi from DMK, Mahua Moitra from TMC, Priyanka Chaturvedi from Shiv Sena, Manoj Kumar Jha from RJD, Elamaram Kareem from CPM, Binoy Viswam from CPI, NK Premachandran from RSP, Badruddin Ajmal from AIUDF and ET Mohd IUML’s Basheer are among the parliamentarians who signed the joint agreement. statement released at a press conference here.
The 42 eminent persons who signed the statement included The Hindu newspaper chairman N Ram, Telegraph editor R Rajagopal, The Caravan magazine editor Vinod K Jose, MediaOne editor Pramod Raman, Former Bombay High Court Judge BG Kolse Patil, former DGP of Uttar Pradesh KS Subramanian and famous author Tushar Gandhi.
“MediaOne News, a Kerala-based news and current affairs television channel, has suddenly and arbitrarily had its uplink and downlink license revoked by the I&B ministry, citing unspecified national security concerns raised by the MHA” , they said. “This arbitrary act by the MHA amounts to a violation of the freedom of speech and expression guaranteed by Article 19 of the Constitution, and also represents a crackdown on press freedom in India,” they said.
“We are also extremely disappointed by the decision of the Single Judge of the High Court of Kerala who refused to reverse the cancellation of the license of MediaOne News by the MIB and MHA and to protect the fundamental right to freedom of speech. and expression,” they added. .
They said the central government in 2020 suspended MediaOne’s transmission for 48 hours, as well as that of Asianet News, for coverage of the Delhi violence that took place in February this year.
MediaOne News’ team of reporters and reporters had conducted “extensive coverage of the horrific communal riots” and “its refusal to toe the government line resulted in this suspension of the central government by making accusations in order like criticism to Delhi Police and RSS,” they charged.
The suspension was lifted 12 hours after the other channel’s suspension was lifted, they added.
The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting revoked MediaOne’s license on January 31, citing national security concerns raised by the Home Office.
Madhyamam Broadcasting Ltd, which operates the news channel, then proposed to Kerala HC to challenge the Centre’s decision.
Hearing the case on February 8, the High Court upheld the Centre’s decision to ban MediaOne from broadcasting, saying the MHA’s denial of security clearance to the Malayalam news channel was “justified”.
On February 9, Madhyamam Broadcasting Ltd, some of its employees and a syndicate of journalists filed separate appeals with the High Court against the order of its single judge.
After hearing the two parties on February 10, the double chamber of the high court reserved its judgment on the appeals lodged before it.
“We hope that in the current case as well as subsequent legal proceedings will protect the channel’s fundamental right to free speech and expression and restore MediaOne News’ transmission license,” said the parliamentarians, editors and other prominent figures in their statement Freedom of the press is essential to the health of any democracy and the central government “must not” be allowed to abuse its powers to suppress critical voices and TV news channels “that dare challenge the official narrative,” they added.
Addressing a press conference virtually, the chairman of The Hindu expressed his solidarity with MediaOne and its employees, saying what the government has done with the news channel is “outrageous”.
“This is a blatant attack on media freedom and fundamental rights as well. We have seen attacks on the press before, on fundamental rights. But apart from the period of the emergency which was short-lived, I I haven’t encountered anything of this magnitude,” he said.
He also expressed concern about the “sealed case law” passed by the courts and hoped for justice for the channel.
Senior Supreme Court counsel Prashant Bhushan, who is one of the signatories, said press freedom in the country was “seriously threatened” under the current waiver.
The government denied MediaOne security clearance without giving an explanation even though the news channel has “an excellent reputation”, he said.