International news channel Al Jazeera was today forced to go off air in the country for five days as the government penalised it for repeatedly showing wrong maps of India.
Al Jazeera today only showed a blank screen with a message saying that “as instructed by the ministry of Information and Broadcasting, this channel will not be available from 00.01 hours on 22nd April till 00.01 hours on 27th April 2015.”
Earlier in an order, I&B ministry had said that it had come to its notice that Al Jazeera had shown a wrong map of India in some of its broadcasts in 2013 and 2014, after which the matter was referred to Surveyor General of India (SGI).
The SGI had observed that in some of the maps displayed by Al Jazeera, “a portion of Indian territory of Jammu and Kashmir (i.e. PoK and Aksai Chin) has not been shown as a part of Indian territory.” The channel also did not show Lakshadweep and Andaman Islands in some of the maps, the SGI said.
The SGI also said that the maps were not in accordance with the Survey of India copyright map and is also against the National Map policy, 2005 and map restriction policy issued by Ministry of Defence from time to time. The Ministry of External Affairs also pointed out similar airing of a wrong map by the channel.
In their reply to a Show Cause Notice, Al Jazeera said that all maps that are displayed by them are generated by an internationally known software used by Global News Providers.
The channel also added that it takes Indian government’s concerns about maps very seriously and accordingly reviews all its India and Pakistan maps to ensure compatibility with recent official UN map.
As per the order of the I&B ministry, the Inter Ministerial Committee (IMC) which was also attended by representatives of the MEA, after deliberations, held that the channel had clearly violated the provisions of the programme code and recommended to prohibit transmission or re-transmission of the channel throughout India for five days.
In a statement, Al Jazeera said it condemns “censorship by Indian government” and demanded talks with the Indian government after the punitive decision to take the channel off the air for five days.
In its statement, the channel claimed that the ban, which took effect today, concerns maps of Pakistan shown on the channel which on occasions during 2013 and 2014 did not mark Pakistan-controlled Kashmir as separate territory.
The maps produced by external software gave the same treatment to Indian-controlled Kashmir, though this was not subject to similar complaints, it said.
Once the issue was pointed out by the Indian authorities, the channel ensured from 22 September 2014 that all borders of Kashmir were marked with dotted lines and shaded differently, the channel said.
“This ban is a disproportionate response to an issue that we fixed promptly after it was pointed out. It needlessly deprives Indian viewers of our global news and programmes,” Al Anstey, Managing Director of Al Jazeera English, said.
“Unfortunately, this is the latest in a series on ongoing issues. Our journalists have not been granted visas for years now. We approach India like we do any other country showing the world the positive and the negative, the humanity, and the diversity. This can be easily witnessed in the integrity and quality of the output that we have been allowed from India,” he added.
Al Anstey also said the channel has been severely hampered for too long by constraints placed upon it when trying to tell Indian stories to the world.
“This is why I am writing to the Information Minister seeking talks that will help us move forward in a constructive way,” he added.
The ban affects viewers on Dish, Tata, Reliance and Airtel platforms, the statement said, adding that Al Jazeera English is still available online.