The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting on Tuesday suspended the licence of Marathi news channel Lokshahi Marathi for 30 days. In a notice, the ministry directed Lokshahi Marathi stop its broadcast from 6 pm on Tuesday.
The news channel alleged that it came under the government scanner after reporting on Bharatiya Janata Party leader Kirit Somaiya's alleged obscene video on July 14, 2023.
'Ready for legal battle'
"Lokshahi Marathi played a significant role, showcasing fearless journalism in fulfilling its democratic duty. ... On July 14, 2023, a news item triggered a 72-hour shutdown notice. Following this, we appealed to the Delhi High Court, successfully lifting the ban. However, the ministry has now decided to revoke the licence of Lokshahi Marathi," the news channel said in a statement. "We are ready for a legal battle. This marks the first instance in Maharashtra's history where a channel has been ordered to cease operations."
While the news channel will remain off air for 30 days, its digital operations continue to remain unhindered. Lokshahi Marathi's editor-in-chief Kamlesh Sutar said that it will continue to report news on its YouTube channel.
Kirit Somaiya video
Lokshahi Marathi made headlines after airing an alleged explicit video of Somaiya. The video showed the former MP in an objectionable position over a video call.
The video kicked political storm in Maharashtra, with the Leader of the Opposition and Shiv Sena (UBT) MLC Ambadas Danave raising the issue a session of the Maharashtra State Legislative Council in 2023. He also provided a pen drive that allegedly contained over eight hours of video footage to Deputy Chief Minister and Home Minister Devendra Fadnavis, calling for a thorough investigation.
The airing of the video also prompted legal action from Somaiya against the news channel's editor-in-chief Kamlesh Sutar and Youtuber Anil Thatte.
Shiv Sena UBT MP Priyanka Chaturvedi slammed the suspension of Lokshahi channel. Chaturvedi took a veiled dig at Kirit Somaiya and BJP and criticised the party over imposing dictatorship.
Chaturvedi in her post on her official account on X said, "Lokshahi channel had literally exposed the BJP man who has made a career of accusing all his opponents as corrupt and now most of them are his colleagues in BJP. Instead of taking action against Kirit Somaiya the I&B ministry has chosen to ban the channel for 30 days under the garb of license irregularity. If this isn’t dictatorship then what is?"