Union govt’s decision to bar MediaOne telecast was wrong: Kerala CM

The CM said that without telling the channel or the people how it posed a risk to national security, its telecast was stopped, and such actions impinge on the freedom of the press.
Kerala CM Pinarayi Vijayan
Kerala CM Pinarayi Vijayan
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In apparent support of Malayalam news channel MediaOne, whose telecast has stopped pursuant to the Kerala High Court upholding the Union government’s order not to renew its broadcast licence, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan on Wednesday said the central government's decision was wrong. The CM, at a press conference held at Thiruvananthapuram, said that without telling the channel or the people how it posed a risk to national security, its telecast was stopped. He said such actions impinge on the freedom of the press.

Meanwhile, Madhyamam Broadcasting Ltd, which operates MediaOne, some of its employees and a journalists union on Wednesday moved separate appeals in the Kerala High Court against its single judge's order upholding the Union government’s decision to bar telecast of the Malayalam news channel. The three appeals were mentioned in the morning before a bench of Chief Justice S Manikumar and Justice Shaji P Chaly, which said that they will hear the matter on Thursday.

Senior advocate Jaju Babu, representing the channel's editor, some of its employees and the Kerala Union of Working Journalists (KUWJ), confirmed filing of the appeals and that the issue would be heard on Thursday by the bench.

In the appeals filed by the channel's editor, Pramod Raman, and other employees as well as the union, they contended that the Union government issued the order barring telecast of MediaOne "abruptly" and without hearing the company or its staff and therefore, denied employment to more than 320 journalists and non-journalists.

They also alleged that the single judge's February 8 order upholding the Union government’s decision was "illegal and unsustainable".

The single judge in his order had said that the denial of security clearance to MediaOne by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) was "justified".

"Having gone through the files produced by the MHA, I find that the ministry has called for reports from various intelligence agencies and based on the inputs received from the intelligence agencies, a committee of officers recommended that security clearance should not be renewed.

"MHA also considered the entire facts and accepted the recommendation of the committee of officers. Going through the files, I find that there are inputs which justify the decision of the MHA," the judge had said.

The court, in its 42-page judgement, had also said that according to the downlinking guidelines, even at the time of considering renewal of permission, security clearance was mandatory. 

"The contention of the petitioners that the security clearance is a one time affair and is not required at the time of renewal of licence, therefore, cannot be accepted," it had said.

The company employees and KUWJ, in their respective appeals, alleged that the single judge "erred" in holding that security clearance was mandatory for even renewal of the permissions.

They have sought setting aside of the single judge's February 8 decision.

This was 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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