Union minister boycotts Asianet News channel, says will follow party stand

Asianet News has come under attack from the BJP for allegedly ignoring the post-poll violence in West Bengal.

UNION MINISTER V Muraleedharan on Wednesday refused to include reporters from Asianet News channel in his official press meet, saying the Kerala BJP is boycotting the Malayalam channel over its coverage of the post-poll violence in West Bengal, and he as a party leader will do the same.

“Be it official or non-official [press meet], I am a leader of the BJP. I will not invite a media group, which is being boycotted by Kerala BJP. I may be a Union minister… but I will follow that,” Muraleedharan said during the press meet at his official residence.

Muraleedharan had convened the press meet to talk about the death of a Kerala woman in a rocket attack in Israel and the Covid situation in Kerala.

His response came when other reporters present at the press meet asked him about the logic of him singling out one media group as he holds an official position in the Government of India. When pointed out that he holds an official position, he said: “Let it be… everyone should remember that the BJP is the party that rules this country. Every party has the freedom to adopt a stand against those who are taking anti-national position.”

With some journalists objecting to his stand, he said non-cooperation is a policy even accepted by Mahatma Gandhi. “I am following Gandhian principles,” he said.

The minister earlier removed Asianet News reporters from a WhatsApp group he has been using in his official capacity to disseminate information.

Asianet News Editor M G Radhakrishnan told The Indian Express that the channel has not been officially conveyed about a boycott. “Came to know of it in the Kerala BJP’ s public statement that they decided to ‘non-cooperate’ with us in protest against one of our reporter’s response to an anonymous telephone call regarding violence in West Bengal,” he said. “In minister V Muraleedharan’s case… we were taken out of his media WhatsApp group which was formed to convey his official communications. Later, he talked about his decision to go by the party’s boycott in his meeting with the media.”

Asianet News  has come under attack from the BJP for allegedly ignoring the post-poll violence in West Bengal. It got compounded after one of the channel’s reporters, P R Praveena, made sarcastic remarks while responding to a pro-BJP caller, a clipping of which got widely circulated on social media.

Following this, Praveena, who works with the channel’s Thiruvananthapuram bureau, faced a vicious campaign on social media, including rape and death threats. Both the channel and the reporter later publicly apologised for her remarks.

Rajesh Kalra, Executive Chairman of Asianet News Media & Entertainment Pvt Ltd, tweeted: “We have taken strong action against the person & put in place a system to ensure this isn’t repeated. I want to re-emphasise that there’s NO place for any prejudice in our newsroom….We stand committed to Straight, Bold, Relentless journalism.”

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