Revocation of MediaOne license is a crackdown on press freedom in India: prominent figures

New Delhi: Several parliamentarians, lawyers, editors and activists on Monday showed their support for the Malayalam news channel MediaOne, saying the revocation of its license by the Union government over “unspecified” security concerns represents “an crackdown on 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 Single Judge Bench of the High Court of Kerala was based on a ‘sealed’ envelope provided by the (Union) Ministry of Home (MHA), the contents of which have not been 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 statement. released at a press conference here.

The 42 eminent persons who signed the declaration included the President of the The Hindu newspaper N. Ram, editor of Telegraph R. Rajagopal, Editor-in-Chief of Caravan magazine Vinod K. Jose, editor of MediaOne Pramod Raman, former Bombay High Court Judge BG Kolse Patil, former DGP of Uttar Pradesh KS Subramanian and renowned 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 Ministry of I&B, 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 Bench of the High Court of Kerala which refused to overturn the cancellation of MediaOne News’ license by the MIB and MHA and protect the fundamental right to liberty of speech and expression,” they said. added.

They said that in 2020, the Union government suspended the transmission of MediaOne for 48 hours, as well as that of Asianet News, due to coverage of the Delhi violence that took place in February of the same year.

MediaOne News’ team of reporters and journalists 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 as criticism to the Delhi Police and the 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 petitioned the Kerala High Court to challenge the Union government’s decision.

Hearing the case on February 8, the High Court upheld the Union government’s decision to ban the broadcast of MediaOne, saying the denial of security clearance to the Malayalam news channel by the MHA 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 seat 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 freedom of speech and expression and restore MediaOne News’ transmission license,” said the parliamentarians, editors and other eminent personalities 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 to question the official narrative “, they added.

Addressing a press conference virtually, the President of the The Hindu expressed 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… We have already seen attacks on the press, on fundamental rights. But apart from the period of the emergency which was short-lived, I have not 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.

(PTI)

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