The Communist Party of India (Marxist) or CPI(M) which leads the Left Democratic Front of Kerala government has announced that members of the party shall not take part in discussions hosted by Asianet News.
"Channel discussions are a platform for representatives of political parties to present their stand. But the discussions held during the news hour on Asianet News in recent days have not given time to CPI(M) representatives to present facts or make the party's stand clear. It is in protest of this anti-democratic attitude that the CPI(M) has decided not to take in the channel's discussions," said a post by CPIM Kerala on Facebook.
Reacting to this, Editor of Asianet News MG Radhakrishnan told TNM that it was an unfortunate development.
â€œIt is an unfortunate development. As a party functioning in a democratic system, I would expect them to engage more with the media instead of boycotting. You can come on the media, make your positions clear and make an argument. But at the same time, you have to answer a number of questions. Their allegations are baseless," he said.
The CPI(M) said that the move comes after its leaders P Rajeev and MB Rajesh were offended by the attitude of anchors on Asianet News, and they were allegedly interrupted a number of times, preventing them from explaining their views.
"The CPI(M) representative has to give replies to three political rivals as well as the anchor who supports them. But without showing basic courtesy, the anchor continuously interrupts every reply of the CPI(M) leader. Last day, CPI(M) state secretariat member P Rajeev was interrupted 13 times. Another state committee member MB Rajesh was interrupted 17 times and MLA Swaraj got cut 18 times. It cannot be accepted that the CPI(M) representative has to answer three political rivals and the anchor all in 30 seconds. The channel also shows intolerance by switching off the microphone when the leader tries to answer in this short time," the Facebook post said.
Following this, MB Rajesh put out a video with statements that he wanted to make during the channel discussion but could not. It was on the controversial company PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) that was allegedly opening an office inside the state Secretariat but has not done so in the past two years. The Opposition had alleged that the company was hired to provide a favourable report in the hiring of another company Hess AG to manufacture e-mobility projects.
Responding to this, MG Radhakrishnan said, "A TV news programme like the News Hour is not like a school elocution event where each speaker will be given a particular time to speak. The anchor will keep asking questions. It also depends on the topic at hand. In the gold smuggling case, no doubt, the ruling party has to answer and there will be a lot of questions directed at them. It is illogical to say why the panellists belonging to other parties are not asked the same number of questions."
"Fundamentally, it is the duty of the media to ask questions to the power that be, on behalf of the people of Kerala. In this particular issue, all the more so as the government has to answer more questions. So, it is only natural that they take more questions from the anchor," he added.
In its post, the CPI(M) also said that it has never decided to boycott a channel â€˜even when fake news against the party were spread on channelsâ€™. However, this decision (to boycott Asianet News) comes after the violation of all democratic courtesies, it added.
However, MG Radhakrishnan said that a political party boycotting the channel or even taking them off air was not new to Asianet News. "We have been independent and apolitical as a media channel. We have been affected several times in the past for asking questions. Recently, we were taken off air when we reported the Delhi riots this year. In 2014, the Bharatiya Janata Party had boycotted us when we took a particular stand. We asked the Congress questions when they were in power during the solar scam. This (boycotting) is keeping away from any dialogue around this issue. I would see it as a sudden, emotional reaction by the CPI(M), as this comes as a huge blow especially after being lauded for their efforts in containing the COVID-10 crisis," he said.