A DAY after Marathi news channel ‘Lokshahi’ was taken off air by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting for airing a purported sex video of BJP leader Kirit Somaiya, the channel said it will take legal recourse and fight the matter legally while Opposition parties in the state said the move was another example of an ‘undeclared Emergency’.
“We will fight the matter legally. We will be seeking legal recourse and are currently consulting legal experts,” editor of Lokshahi Kamlesh Sutar told this paper on Saturday.
Sutar said the channel was taken off air within minutes of them receiving a mail from Information and Broadcasting Ministry. “We received the mail from the ministry at 6.13pm on Friday and by 7pm, the channel was taken off air,” he said. The ban on the channel has been imposed for 72 hours.
“After our channel broadcast the video of the former BJP MP on July 17, the Ministry had sought an explanation…We had given detailed explanation…,” said Sutar.
Following a complaint by Kirit Somaiya, the Ministry constituted an Internal Departmental Committee under Cable Television Network (Amendment) Rules, 2021, to probe the matter.
Somaiya did not respond to calls and messages seeking a response on the matter. However, in a tweet, the BJP leader said, “Govt of India Ordered #Lokshahi Marathi News Channel to “Go Off Air”, close the transmission for 3 days for manipulative illegal news report of Sextortion by Me against 3 Dozen Women. No such video clip of woman or complaint is available…The Information Broadcasting Ministry says…It is clear from the video that the veracity of the clip was not checked before playing it and same has been played as live telecast. Such continuous reporting based on a few seconds of clip tantamounts to sensationalising the matter and maligning the image of the individual.”
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Meanwhile, Opposition parties have reacted strongly to the ban imposed on the channel. Chief spokespersin of Shiv Sena (UBT) and Rajya Sabha MP Sanjay Raut told this paper, “This is another proof of the existence of an undeclared Emergency in the country since the BJP’s rise to power in 2014…At least in a declared Emergency, open orders are issued but in an undeclared emergency, everything happens under cover…What has happened now is the extreme point of Emergency.”
“The BJP-led central government is doing everything possible to protect its ‘parrot’ who has been caught red-handed. Everything is being done to protect one individual and thereby the party’s face and image, which got tarnished after the sex video surfaced.”
Stating that the ban on the channel was an attack on democracy and freedom of expression, the Shiv Sena (UBT) leader said, “Without conducting a thorough probe, the government has taken a vindictive action, to muzzle the freedom of expression and freedom of press…”