In a significant development, the central government has reportedly withdxrawn the security clearance given to Qatar-based news channel, Al Jazeera. This, in effect, means that the channel may be forced to broadcast in India. The security licence was withdrawn by the Ministry of Home Affairs, reported PTI.
Home Ministry officials have reportedly passed the buck to the Union Information and Broadcasting Ministry for the decision since it was the nodal authority on issuing of broadcasting licence given to any media outlet.
“Our role is limited to matters related to security clearance. The decision on cancellation of broadcasting licence will be taken by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting,” PTI quoted an MHA official.
It’s not clear what could have irked the Centre’s Narendra Modi government, but a recent documentary on the situation in Jammu and Kashmir by Al Jazeera is believed to be the reason for the withdrawal of the security clearance.
Sources within the MHA said that the said documentary had angered high-ranking security officials, prompting the ministry to withdraw the licence. Another official said that the security clearance was given by the Home Ministry on December 3, 2010 and withdrawn on May 29, 2018.
The news has evoked sharp reactions from netizens, who slammed the Modi government for curbing dissent by gagging the media. Salil Triptahi wrote, ‘The Indian Government will of course blame a Nehru-era (or more likely, P Chidambaram-era) rule for this.” Shama Mahmood of the Congress tweeted, “No wonder India’s Press Freedom Ranking has fallen to 138th place under
#Modi Sarkar! This is Undeclared Emergency!”
According to a report Economic Times, Al Jazeera told the government in its representation that the documentary on militant networks in Kashmir devoted a substantial 10 minutes to the central government’s efforts and the views of its officials.
In 2015, affter the Modi government came to power, the channel had faced suspension for five days after it showed an incorrect map of India with respect to Jammu and Kashmir.