Hours after imposing a 48-hour broadcasting ban on two Kerala-based television channels for violating code of conduct during their coverage of Delhi riots, the government overturned its order and suggested that its officials could have erred in drafting the notice.
Information and Broadcasting Minister Prakash Javadekar said one of the affected channels, AsiaNet, had been asked to resume its broadcasting services on Friday night itself, while the other, Media One, had resumed its broadcasting Saturday morning.
“We immediately found out what actually happened, and therefore, we restored the channels… Our basic thought process is that press freedom is absolutely essential in a democratic set up and that is the commitment of (Narendra) Modi government,” Javadekar said.
Javadekar told The Indian Express that the two television channels had indeed violated the broadcasting code of conduct, but that the notice issued to them was probably not properly worded. As reported by The Indian Express on Saturday, the notice issued by the government had accused the television channels of ‘siding’ with one community and being “critical towards Delhi Police and RSS”.
“We have now asked the concerned officers how this happened. The notice sent to the two media channels should have restricted itself to mentioning only that the code of conduct was not followed. There is a code of conduct for news channels which expects them not to disclose names of places of worship (during riots),” Javadekar said.
He said the management of both the television channels had spoken to him after the order was issued on Friday evening.
“Both the channels explained themselves and AsiaNet News also tendered an apology on Friday evening. Hence, valuing press freedom, we took immediate action, and restored the channels,” he said.
Javadekar said Prime Minister Narendra Modi had also expressed concern over the ban order, and promised to take “essential corrective” steps if a wrongdoing was found.
“But let me also tell that you that everyone accepts that press freedom has to be exercised in a responsible fashion… We do hope that media will exercise responsible freedom,” he said.