Citing national security issues, the Union government had imposed a ban on television channel Media One and the company filed an appeal before the Kerala High Court. N P Chekkutty has this report.
Calicut: Media One Channel, one of the top five television news channels in Malayalam with its headquarters in Calicut, will continue to remain off air as the Kerala High Court today dismissed its appeal against a single bench order upholding the Information & Broadcasting Ministry’s order stopping its uplink.
Read the order here:
The I&B Ministry, in an order dated January 31 this year had canceled permission for uplinking of the channel since serious objections were raised by the Union Home Ministry based on reports from intelligence agencies that the channel’s news broadcast had compromised national interests and security. But no details were given to the channel management or the media by the central government as to actual reasons for the abrupt cancellation of uplink license after almost ten years of existence of this news channel run by Media One Broadcasting Company Ltd,, owned by a trust launched by the Kerala unit of the Indian Jamaat e Islami.
The channel had approached the Kerala High Court for an order annulling the I&B Ministry order and Justice Nagaresh, who heard the case, gave a temporary stay which allowed the channel to resume its broadcast later in the evening. But on 8 February, Justice Nagaresh ordered the channel to stop its broadcast immediately upholding the I&B Ministry’s order canceling the telecast. The judge observed that the details about its misdeeds mentioned in a sealed cover handed over to the court by the authorities warranted its immediate stoppage of activities. Ever since the channel remained off air, with only its online activities still on.
The channel management and Kerala Union of Working Journalists (KUWJ), a professional body of working journalists in the state, appealed to the division bench of the high court against the single bench order. But the division bench consisting of Justice S Manikumar and Justice Shaji P Chali dismissed their appeal. For the channel, senior lawyer Dushyant Dave argued that media freedom was extremely important for safeguarding democracy and hence the stoppage of its broadcast caused injury to our democratic society. Additional solicitor general Aman Lekhi, who appeared for the government, said that there were serious allegations against the channel detailed of which were provided to the court in a sealed cover.
The executive editor of the channel C Dawood and its editor Pramod Raman said they would appeal in the Supreme Court as soon as the copy of division bench order is received. Senior lawyer and former attorney general Mukul Rohatgi will appear for the channel.
The channel launched ten years ago at a capital investment of Rs. 200 crore collected from around 65,000 shareholders now employ around 350 full time staffers. Though the on air activities are stopped, the staff are still retained for the online coverage. But the staff members expressed their apprehension that if the Supreme Court did not intervene positively as soon as possible, the channel might have to wind up its operations considering the dwindling revenues and mounting costs.
(N P Chekkutty is a senior journalist based in Kozhikode, Kerala)