Center refuses to intervene in blocking of Andhra news channels

Information and Broadcasting Minister Prakash Javadekar today refused to intervene in the alleged blocking of news channels critical of the state government of Andhra Pradesh.

The unofficial ban on two news Telugu news channels — TV5 and ABN Andhra Jyothi — in the coastal state, allegedly for being critical of the YSRCP government — has been causing much consternation to journalists and free speech activists for nearly six months now.

It was in September that these two channels suddenly started going off air on major cable networks in Andhra Pradesh, allegedly on ‘unofficial’ directions given by the state government.

This was followed by a case in the telecom disputes forum by these channels against the cable feed providers.

On September 25, the Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal directed cable networks in the state to restore the channels within 24 hours.

However, Jayadev Galla, member of Lok Sabha from the Telugu Desam Party, expressed his concerns that some cable networks have still not reversed the unofficial ban.

In response, Javadekar said the central government has no role to play in such cases where directions have allegedly been violated.

“Multi-System Operator carry permitted satellite TV Channels on their network as per the commercial agreement with the broadcaster. All the relevant issues are governed by the interconnect agreement executed between the broadcaster and the Multi-System Operator. The Ministry has no role in execution of the said agreement,” he said.

The Editors’ Guild of India, a body comprising top journalists of the country, had expressed its consternation on this matter soon after the controversy erupted.

“The Editors Guild of India is distressed to note that an unwritten ban has been imposed by the YSR Congress-led government in Andhra Pradesh on two Telugu news channels — TV5 and ABN. Such restrictions strike at the root of press freedom.

“The Guild urges the Andhra Pradesh government to clarify if it indeed has in any way been responsible for the stoppage in telecasting of these two television channels. If so, it should immediately rescind any such order,” it said in a statement in September.

“The Guild urges the government not to create a situation where the constitutionally and legally mandated freedoms of media representatives are compromised,” it added.