The Press Club of India (PCI) has slammed Union Minister of State for External Affairs V. Muraleedharan after the latter banned Asianet News channel from attending his official press conference on Thursday, May 13.
In a letter, PCI President Umakant Lakhera and Secretary-General Vinay Kumar wrote, "PCI deplores the conduct of V Muraleedharan, Minister of State for External Affairs, banning Asianet News from attending his official press conference in New Delhi on May 13."
PCI slammed the minister for his "arbitrary and undemocratic" move and said, "The Union Minister has defended his stand by saying that the Kerala unit of the BJP is boycotting the channel over its coverage of the post poll violence in West Bengal and as leader of the party, he will do the same. The minister's act of banning a news channel from an official press conference is arbitrary and undemocratic. As a Union Minister, he is expected to perform his duties in a fair manner beyond any political beliefs."
"The PCI requests the minister to reconsider his decision and allow Asianet News to cover his press meets," the letter further read.
Reportedly, Asianet TV channel--the leading Malayalam TV channel--has come under attack from the BJP after an incident where one of the channel's reporter had spoken in a sarcastic manner to a caller who asked why the channel is not airing the news from West Bengal when the BJP activists are under attack from the workers of the Trinamool Congress (TMC). Incidentally when on his last week's visit to Bengal, Muraleedharan's convoy had come under attack from angry workers allegedly belonging to the TMC.
The remarks made by the reporter were widely circulated on social media. According to an Indian Express report, the reporter later faced a vicious campaign on social media, including rape and death threats. The channel and the reporter later publicly apologised for the remarks.
Following the incident, the saffron party decided to go in for a non-cooperation with the TV channel and decided not to send any of its party leaders to take part in discussions by the news channel in its prime news hour bulletins.
Asianet TV's Delhi bureau chief Prasanth Reghuvamsom said that they were removed from the WhatsApp group of the Union Minister Muraleedharan, which was created by him for the Kerala Media operating from Delhi.
Muraleedharan had said that even though he is a Union Minister, he is also a BJP party member and the party's decision is therefore binding on him.
(With IANS inputs)