Opposition protests action against Media One: Go to Shah, I&B Minister told Kerala MPs

Ten Lok Sabha MPs from Kerala met Union I&B Minister Anurag Thakur a day after the ministry revoked the broadcasting licence for Media One, a Malayalam channel promoted by prominent Jamaat-e-Islami members.

Thakur advised the MPs to approach the Union Home Minister, since it was his ministry that had denied security clearance to the channel. The MPs included Kodikunnil Suresh and K Sudhakaran from Congress, and N K Premachandran of the Revolutionary Socialist Party.

MPs cutting across party lines — Supriya Sule of the NCP, Mahua Moitra of Trinamool Congress, ET Mohammed Bashir of IUML, and Digvijaya Singh of Congress — have extended their support to Media One.

Kunwar Danish Ali of BSP tweeted that the government “should not bring back the Emergency with new forms of attack on media freedom”. On Sunday, DMK’s Kanimozhi tweeted, “The voices of the people, media, and civil society are to be heard in a democracy. Silencing dissent, debate and dialogue is very unhealthy for a democracy.”

Thakur did not respond to the criticism.

The MPs from Kerala submitted memorandums to Thakur and to the office of Home Minister Amit Shah against the “shocking and unfortunate incident of revocation of Uplinking and Downlinking licence to MediaOne News”. The “government has not been forthcoming as to what those concerns are” because of which security clearance was denied, the MPs said.

Basheer, Hibi Eden, Abdussamad Samadani, N Prathapan, Adoor Prakash, Dean Kuriakose, and Rajmohan Unnithan were also part of the delegation.

Suresh, who led the delegation, told The Indian Express “seven to eight” Lok Sabha MPs had met Thakur on the issue after Budget presentation on February 1.

“First we met him inside the House. After that outside, in the lobby, we had a detailed discussion with him. He told us that action was not taken by the I&B Ministry. We (I&B) are not responsible for the cancellation of the licence of the Media One channel. At the same time, he said, Ministry of Home Affairs asked I&B not to renew the channel’s licence because of security reasons.”

The MHA, Suresh said, has “not clearly indicated the reason; they have only said due to security reasons.” “(Thakur) told us, I am not able to do anything, because it is not an I&B decision, it was taken by MHA, so you have to meet the Home Minister, and they will take a decision. If they ask us to withdraw the cancellation, then immediately we will withdraw. I&B Ministry has no problem,” Suresh said.

He said the delegation had tried to meet the Home Minister in his chamber in Parliament House, but were informed that he was busy. They had handed over the memorandum to the minister’s staff, but “so far the Home Minister’s Office has not informed us about an appointment to discuss the matter,” Suresh said.

Premchandran of the RSP said Thakur had told them “he is helpless”, and “we (I&B) have nothing to do with this, only the Home Ministry can do.”

There was “no justification” for the ban, Premachandran said. “The Home Ministry has to either seek an explanation from them, or they have to give a charge — that you have not complied with this, or the content is anti-national. But such a notice has never been issued.”

Thakur did not respond to requests seeking comments about his meeting with the Kerala MPs.

In their memorandum to Thakur, the delegation said: “As per our understanding, the channel was in the process of renewing the licence with the Ministry and all required documentations were done properly and on time… This is a unilateral move from the Ministry to silence a media house which is on air since 2013. The basic principle of natural justice to hear the accused before punishment is blatantly denied here.”

Earlier, on January 31, when the order was issued, John Brittas of CPM, who heads Kairali TV, and Hibi Eden of Congress had also written to Thakur expressing concern.

On Sunday, Congress leader in Lok Sabha Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury wrote to Thakur saying “curbing the freedom of press in the garb of vague charges like security reasons would degenerate our State into a totalitarian regime”, and asked him to immediately lift the licence ban.

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