Malayalam news channel MediaOne, whose telecast has been stopped pursuant to a single judge order upholding the Centre's decision not to renew its license, on Thursday told the Kerala High Court that it has been "victimised" for fair and genuine news reporting.
The Centre, on the other hand, told the court that the channel's telecast was barred over national security concerns. After hearing both sides, the high court reserved judgement in the appeals by the channel, its employees and a journalists union seeking setting aside of the single judge's February 8 order.
Madhyamam Broadcasting Ltd, which operates MediaOne, told a bench of Chief Justice S Manikumar and Justice Shaji P Chaly that the reason for the threat to national security, cited by the Centre to justify the ban, was only a "ruse" and "without any basis".
Senior advocate Dushyant Dave, appearing for the channel, also told the bench that no fresh security clearance was required under the relevant provisions of the uplinking and downlinking guidelines for renewal of license.
Senior advocate Jaju Babu, who represented the channel's editor, other employees and the Kerala Union of Working Journalists (KUWJ), argued before the court that the ban on the channel was imposed without hearing it first as is required under the relevant rules.
Dave and Babu also contended before the bench that freedom of the press, freedom of speech and expression and the right to livelihood, provided under the Constitution, have been violated by the Centre's decision.
Madhyamam, the channel's editor - Pramod Raman - and some employees and KUWJ have moved separate appeals against the single judge's February 8 decision to uphold the Centre's January 31 order barring telecast of the channel.
The Centre, represented by Additional Solicitor General Aman Lekhi, contended that where national security was concerned, reasons for denial of security clearance need not be provided and principles of natural justice -- like giving a hearing, do not apply.
Lekhi also told the court that as per the uplinking and downlinking guidelines, security clearance was mandatory even for the renewal of the license.
In their appeals, the company, its employees and KUWJ have contended that the Centre issued the order barring telecast of MediaOne "abruptly" and without hearing the company or its staff and therefore, denied employment to more than 320 journalists and non-journalists.
They have also alleged that the single judge's February 8 order upholding the Centre's decision was "illegal and unsustainable". The single judge in his order had said that the denial of security clearance to MediaOne by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) was "justified" based on the inputs received from the intelligence agencies.
The single judge came to that conclusion after perusing the files produced by MHA. The court had also said that according to the downlinking guidelines, even at the time of considering the renewal of permission, security clearance was mandatory. This was not the first time the channel has faced such a bar on its operation.
MediaOne, along with another Malayalam News channel, Asianet, was briefly suspended for 48 hours over their coverage of communal violence in Delhi in 2020, with the official orders saying they covered the violence in a manner that "highlighted the attack on places of worship and siding towards a particular community".
With PTI inputs.