The Union government, during the hearing held on Monday, contended that a security clearance once issued cannot continue forever.

A screengrab from the Malayalam channel MediaOne TV
news Court Monday, February 07, 2022 - 19:07

The Kerala High Court on Monday, February 7, extended for one more day its interim order putting on hold the implementation of the Union government’s ban on Malayalam news channel MediaOne's telecast. Justice N Nagaresh, while extending the interim order, also reserved judgment on the pleas moved by Madhyamam Broadcasting Ltd — which operates MediaOne — its employees and a journalists union challenging the Union government’s decision to bar telecast of the news channel. The court said it will pronounce the verdict on Tuesday, February 8.

The Union government, during the arguments on Monday, contended that a security clearance once issued cannot continue forever. Assistant Solicitor General V Manu also opposed in the court the pleas moved by the trade union and the employees, saying that the issue was between the central government and the company. He contended that the pleas by the employees and the trade union were not maintainable.

The Union government had previously told the court that the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) denied security clearance to MediaOne over national security concerns based on intelligence inputs. The channel, on the other hand, contended that MHA clearance was only required at the time for fresh permission/license and not at the time of renewal. It had also contended that, according to the uplinking and downlinking guidelines, security clearance was only required at the time of application for fresh permission and not at the time of renewal of licence.

The Kerala Union of Working Journalists (KUWJ), Pramod Raman — editor of MediaOne — and some employees of the channel, represented by senior advocate Jaju Babu, contended before the high court that hundreds of employees of the channel will be deprived of a livelihood if the Union government's decision is not set aside.

The journalists union and the channel's employees have contended that no violation of the permission or any Act or Rules have been alleged and therefore, the action taken by the Union government was "illegal and unconstitutional."

The Union government had barred telecast of the channel on January 31 and within hours of the same, the channel challenged it in the high court which put the order on hold for two days. The interim stay was on February 2 extended till February 7.

In its plea, the channel had contended that it was not involved in any anti-national activity warranting such a bar on its operations. This is not the first time the channel has faced such a bar on its operation. MediaOne, along with another Malayalam News channel, Asianet, was briefly suspended for 48 hours over their coverage of communal violence in Delhi in 2020, with the official orders saying they covered the violence in a manner that "highlighted the attack on places of worship and siding towards a particular community". 

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