Malayalam channels Asianet News and MediaOne have been barred for 48 hours by the Information and Broadcasting Ministry for their 'coverage of the Delhi riots'. Both the channels have been showing a black screen since 7.30 pm on Friday, March 6, when they were taken off air. The channels can resume broadcast only at 7.30 pm on March 8. The order from the Ministry alleges that Asianet News and MediaOne were provocative, could have incited violence, critical of police, sided with a particular community and showed those who supported the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) in poor light. MediaOne was also noted to be critical of the RSS.
For Asianet News, it is a report by journalist PR Sunil on the violence in Jaffrabad and about Delhi police being mute spectators that led to the temporary ban. For MediaOne, it is a bulletin carrying on a phone-in conversation with its Delhi correspondent Hassanul Banna reporting about the anti-Citizenship Amendment Act protesters being injured and police‚Äôs refusal to visit the spot and nab the vandals that led to the ban.
‚ÄúIt appeared that the telecast of the reports on North-East Delhi violence had been shown in a manner that highlighted the attack on places of worship and siding towards a particular community. The channel's reporting on Delhi violence seems to be biased as it is deliberately focusing on the vandalism of CAA supporters. It also questions RSS and alleges Delhi Police inaction. The channel seems to be critical towards Delhi Police and RSS,‚ÄĚ the order said in relation to MediaOne.
The Ministry has further alleged that MediaOne accused the Delhi Police of remaining inactive during violence, and also blamed police for vandalising shops and fruit carts.
‚ÄúThe channel also reported that violence took place mostly in Muslim dominated area of Chand Bagh, Delhi. While telecasting the news, the channel carried the news of stone pelting, arson and injured people being taken to hospital,‚ÄĚ the order says.
The report by Asianet News, the order alleges, could have ‚Äėincited violence and posed danger to maintenance of law and order situation, particularly when the situation is already highly volatile and charged up and riots are taking place in the area‚Äô.
The order further states that Asianet reported about rioters blocking commuters and attacking them for their religion, attacking houses of Muslims in Hindu majority areas and rioters firing at each other with slogans of Jai Sri Ram and Azadi in the air. Asianet also reported about shops, houses and vehicles being burnt and no action being taken as the violence continued for the third day, with the Central Government not acting to control the riots.
This report, the I&B order says, had been shown in a manner that highlighted the attack on places of worship and siding towards a particular community. It said the reporter alleged that central troops had not arrived and that he had witnessed the attacks on Muslims. The reporter had also said that rioters had asked which religion he belonged to. "While repofting such critical incidents, the channel (Asianet News T\/) should have taken utmost care and should have reported it in a balanced way. Such reporting could enhance the communal disharmony across the country when the situation is highly volatile," the order said.
Sunil's story had, in fact, gone viral in Kerala and he had been lauded for his report that showed what happened through the day on February 25.
Both channels have been taken off air citing two rules under the Cable Television Networks Rules, 1994.
Rule 6(1)(c) says that no programme, which contains attack on religions or communities or visuals or words contemptuous of religious groups or which promote communal attitudes, should be carried. Rule 6(1 e), too, has been evoked by the Ministry. The rule says that no programme, which is likely to encourage or incite violence or contains anything against maintenance of law and order or which promote anti-national attitudes, should be carried.
In November 2016, NDTV India was taken off air after their coverage of Pathankot terrorist attack. The channel allegedly received notice for allegedly violating norms of the Cable TV Network Rules, 1994 that prevent live coverage of anti-terrorist operations.