Taliban Releases Journalists Arrested for Reporting Ban on Foreign Drama Series

The Taliban has released three journalists of TOLOnews on Friday, who were arrested earlier for reporting that the airing of a foreign drama series was prohibited in Afghanistan.

The journalists who were detained are Khpulwak Sapai, Director of TOLOnews, Nafay Khaleeq, Legal Manager of Moby Group, and Bahram Aman, TOLOnews presenter.

“As a media outlet, our activities have never disobeyed the government, but have acted as a bridge between the government and the people. Our job is to communicate the information to the people. As such, our suggestion has always been that any issue related to media or TOLOnews should be shared with us via the Ministry of Information and Culture,” stated Sapai.

In August 2021, the military organisation took over Afghanistan, which has given rise to a major crackdown on the country’s media. Immediately after the country’s takeover by the Taliban, the radio stations replaced their usual Hindi and Persian pop and call-in shows with sombre patriotic music. Beheshta Arghand, a news anchor for TOLOnews, who had interviewed the organisation just days after they seized control of Afghanistan, fled the country two weeks later as she feared for her life.

Recently, the Ministry of Vice and Virtue of Afghanistan had ordered the prohibition of airing foreign drama series, and those reporting on the same could face arrest.

“Some media outlets were broadcasting content that damages our society’s religious sentiments and threatens our national security. The Islamic Emirate is committed to freedom of expression, but will not let anyone to step on Islam’s sacred values under different names and threaten the people’s psychological comfort or our country’s national security,” said the Intelligence Department of the Islamic Emirate.

The arrests have garnered a lot of criticism and reactions from several organisations, globally.

The Security Council on Thursday extended the mandate of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan for 12 months, stressing on the important role that the organisation will continue to play in promoting peace and stability in Afghanistan.

The International Press Institute- The Global Network for Independent Journalism had also issued a statement, which demanded the immediate release of the three journalists. “The Taliban must release Aman and cease its harassment of the country’s journalists.”

The United Nations Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), Human Rights Watch (HRW), Reporters Without Borders (RSF), the Afghanistan Independent Journalists Association, Afghanistan Journalists’ Center, Afghan Journalists’ Safety Committee and NAI, an organisation supporting media in Afghanistan, mentioned that the arrest was in violation of principles and laws around the freedom of speech. They also urged the Islamic Emirate to put an end to such “arbitrary arrests.”

Kanye West’s Instagram Account Suspended for Hate Speech, Bullying & Harassment

American rapper Ye, also known as Kanye West, has been temporarily suspended from Instagram for violating the platform’s policies on hate speech, bullying, and harassment.

Although his account remains visible, he will be unable to post, comment, or send direct messages for a period of 24 hours.

Earlier on Wednesday, West had directed a racial slur at Trevor Noah, host of The Daily Show, in an Instagram post that has since been deleted. The alleged slur reportedly came after Noah talked about an argument between West, his former wife Kim Kardashian, and her current boyfriend, comedian Pete Davidson.

A spokesperson for Meta (formerly Facebook), the company that owns Instagram, said the offensive content has been deleted from the platform for violating their policies on hate speech, bullying and harassment. Further, as per the company’s policy to restrict accounts that have repeatedly violated these rules, West’s Instagram account has been suspended for a 24-hour period. The spokesperson added that additional measures will be taken in case of further violations.

In February last year, Kardashian filed for divorce from West, citing irreconcilable differences between the two. The couple has four children together.

Following the divorce, West has often publicly criticised Kardashian’s relationship with Davidson. He also included a disturbing depiction of the comedian being kidnapped and buried alive in the music video for his song Eazy.

However, reports state that Davidson wanted to meet up with the rapper and discuss the whole situation, in person. West reportedly talked about the text messages he received from Davidson in a now-deleted Instagram video.

This is not the first time that the rapper has been caught up in a scandal. Recently, he was named a suspect in a criminal battery investigation, after he allegedly punched a fan. Previously, he had faced heat for his controversial comments about slavery during an interview, back in 2018.

Chris Cuomo Seeks $125 Million from CNN for ‘Unlawful Termination’

Chris Cuomo, who was fired by CNN in December 2021 for helping his brother Andrew Cuomo deal with a sexual harassment scandal, is seeking $125 million from the WarnerMedia-owned network for “unlawful termination.”

In an arbitration filing on Wednesday, his attorneys stated that Cuomo “has been damaged in countless ways” as a result of the “indefensible choice to unceremoniously fire him.” They further said, “Cuomo has had his journalistic integrity unjustifiably smeared, making it difficult if not impossible for him to find similar work in the future and damaging him in amounts exceeding $125 million, which includes not only the remaining salary owed under the Agreement, but future wages lost as a result of CNN’s efforts to destroy his reputation in violation of the Agreement.”

Cuomo was terminated by CNN with immediate effect in December, after a review uncovered the extent of his involvement in helping his brother, the former New York Governor, deal with the sexual harassment allegations he was facing. The anchor himself had admitted in May that he had breached some of the channel’s rules and advised his brother on handling the allegations from the perspective of public relations.

Shortly after his termination, HarperCollins pulled Cuomo’s book-in-progress, Deep Denial, from publication.

The arbitration filing claims that CNN’s highest-level executives not only knew about Cuomo’s involvement in helping his brother but also actively assisted the former Governor, both through Cuomo and directly. It alleges that Cuomo was made the scapegoat when the practices were questioned. The executives referred to are ex-CNN employees Jeff Zucker and Allison Gollust.

Both Zucker and Gollust had resigned shortly after Cuomo was fired following further investigation by the network, which revealed an undisclosed romantic relationship between the two.

“Before Cuomo was terminated, Zucker at first claimed that he had been unaware of Cuomo’s discussions with Governor Cuomo’s aides, when Zucker had done the same thing himself. After Cuomo’s termination, Zucker claimed that Cuomo had broken his word and that Cuomo misrepresented the extent of his support for his brother. Other CNN staff joined in the calculated campaign to smear Cuomo and destroy his reputation,” says the filing. It names other CNN anchors such as Jake Tapper, Don Lemon, and Brian Stelter as being part of this ‘smear campaign’.

CNN is yet to respond to Cuomo’s demand for arbitration.

Surrogate Advertisements Used to Promote BJP on Facebook, Says Analysis by Reporter’s Collective

Facebook, owned by Meta, has promoted surrogate advertisements to aid the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), over its competitors in the 2019 parliamentary elections in India, revealed data collated by The Reporter’s Collective (TRC).

The Collective is a non-profit media organisation based in India, which collaborated with ad.watch that conducted a research project studying political ads on social media, over the past year. The data they had analysed included 536,070 political advertisements on both Facebook and Instagram between February 2019 and November 2020. The analysis aimed to assess the influence of Facebook’s political advertising policies on the elections in India.

Facebook reportedly allowed for surrogate advertisers to secretly fund BJP’s election campaigns while boosting its reach on the platform, based on TRC’s data.

The social media platform allowed NEWJ (New Emerging World of Journalism Limited), a page funded by Reliance, to work a legal loophole to publish surrogate advertisements favouring the BJP and help it gain a wider reach as part of its electoral campaign.

Ahead of the 2019 parliamentary elections, the BJP chose Pragya Singh Thakur as a candidate, who was also an accused in the Malegaon blast case, in which six people were killed in the Muslim-majority area in Maharashtra. At the time, Facebook showed an advertisement through NEWJ that wrongly proclaimed that Thakur, who is still under trial, had been “acquitted” of the charges in the case, which got three lakh views in a day. Eventually, she won the elections while out on bail on medical grounds.

A month before the poll day on April 11, 2019, Facebook showed an advertisement ridiculing Congress’s then-president Rahul Gandhi, where he sarcastically referred to Masood Azhar as “Azhar ji” in a speech.

It was further revealed that Facebook’s Ad Library shows that NEWJ published around 170 political advertisements over the three months that led up to the 2019 parliamentary elections. Among which, most of them either glorified BJP leaders, projected the support of voters for party leader Narendra Modi, stoked nationalistic and religious sentiments or mocked opposition leaders and the rallies held by them.

NEWJ is founded by Shalabh Upadhyay, whose father is the President and Director of the Reliance-owned Network-18 group. However, NEWJ does not declare any formal link with the BJP as there is no public record of the party paying the page to create or publish political advertisements.

Under the Indian laws, the publishing of surrogate advertisements that favour a political candidate but are not directly funded or authorised by that candidate, is still a crime. However, the Election Commission of India (ECI) does not extend this ban to digital platforms including Facebook.

As per a response to a Right to Information (RTI) applied by TRC, despite being aware of the loophole, the ECI did not rectify it and Facebook does not implement the rule as well, allowing NEWJ to continue promoting BJP on its platform.

Further, it was also disclosed that Facebook’s algorithm offers cheaper advertisement deals to the BJP over other political parties. The party was reportedly charged a lower rate for advertisements than its oppositions in nine out of the ten elections that the BJP won, including the election in 2019.

Cannes Film Festival Partners with TikTok in a Bid to Diversify Audiences

Cannes International Film Festival has partnered with TikTok in a bid to attract a more diverse audience.

In a statement, TikTok said the move aims to unite cinematographers and creators from around the world, and give audiences a closer look into the festival.

Users of the app will be able to watch interviews with actors and red carpet events at Cannes on TikTok. It is notable that, in 2018, the curators of the festival had banned red carpet selfies for causing disruption. So this new partnership is a significant step for the festival.

Thierry Fremaux, director of the Cannes Film Festival, said, “With this collaboration – which is part of a desire to diversify the audience – we’re looking forward to sharing the most exciting and inspiring moments from the Festival and seeing the Festival reimagined through the lens of TikTok creators and its community.”

TikTok is a video-sharing social media application that allows users to create, edit, and share short-form video clips accompanied by music. The application, which was launched internationally in 2017, peaked within just a few months, becoming one of the fastest-growing apps. TikTok’s reach is the highest among youngsters, and creators from the platform have entered the entertainment industry as well. Addison Rae and Charli D’Amelio, who are among the most-followed creators on the platform, have branched out into acting and singing.

Ahead of the 75th edition of the Cannes Film Festival, TikTok has launched a global competition called ‘TikTok Short Film’, where eligible creators are invited to share their own short films with the TikTok community.

Three winners will be selected by a jury and awarded a cash prize as well as a trip to the festival. Original submissions can be made until April 8, and these will be judged across three categories, namely Grand Prix, Best Script, and Best Editing.

While the competition is open to all countries, India stands automatically eliminated, owing to its ban of TikTok that has been in place since 2020.

Ukrainian Journalist, FOX News Cameraman Killed While Covering Russian Invasion

Ukrainian journalist Oleksandra “Sasha” Kuvshinov, who was serving as a consultant for Fox News, and the network’s cameraperson Pierre Zakrzewski were both killed on Tuesday, while covering the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Zakrzewski and Sasha were killed when their vehicle was struck by incoming fire. Another Fox News correspondent Benjamin Hall was injured at the same time.

Announcing the news of their deaths, Suzanne Scott, CEO of Fox News, said, “Pierre was a war-zone photographer, who covered nearly every international story for Fox News from Iraq to Afghanistan to Syria during his long tenure with us. His passion and talent as a journalist were unmatched. Based in London, Pierre had been working in Ukraine since February.”

The CEO added that Zakrzewski had also helped evacuate the organisation’s Afghan freelance associates and their families out of Afghanistan after the US withdrawal from the country.

“His talents were vast and there wasn’t a role that he didn’t jump in to help with in the field — from photographer to engineer to editor to producer — and he did it all under immense pressure with tremendous skill,” Scott said.

Pierre was a recipient of Fox News‘ annual employee Spotlight Award “in recognition of his invaluable work.”

He was accompanied by 24-year-old Kuvshinov, who was serving as a consultant on the ground for Fox News in its coverage of the Ukraine crisis. “She was helping our crews navigate Kyiv and the surrounding area, while gathering information and speaking to sources. She was incredibly talented and spent weeks working directly with our entire team there, operating around the clock to make sure the world knew what was happening in her country,” said Scott.

“We held off on delivering this devastating news earlier today out of respect for her family, whom we have been in touch with throughout, and we extend our deepest condolences to them,” she further added.

The deaths of Zakrzewski and Sasha follow that of American journalist and filmmaker Brent Renaud, two days earlier. Renaud, a contributor to the New York Times, was shot and killed at Irpin while driving across a Ukrainian checkpoint. The Peabody Award-winning documentary filmmaker was working on a multi-part series about refugees around the world, called Tipping Point, for the television and film division of Time magazine at the time of his death.

Renaud was reportedly the first foreign journalist killed during the conflict in Ukraine.

Supreme Court Stays MediaOne Ban, Allows Resumption of Telecast

The Supreme Court, on Tuesday, stayed the union government order banning Malayalam news channel MediaOne and said it can resume operations on the same basis as before the revocation of its security clearance.

The apex court granted this interim relief after hearing the appeal filed by Madhyamam Broadcasting Ltd, which owns MediaOne, challenging the Kerala High Court judgment upholding the ban.

The Supreme Court also directed the union government to file its counter affidavit in the matter.

MediaOne went off air on January 31 after its license renewal was denied by the Information & Broadcasting Ministry citing national security reasons. Shortly after this, its operator Madhyamam filed a writ petition before the High Court seeking to set aside the order issued by the I&B Ministry. The petition stated that the channel was not involved in any sort of anti-national activity.

During a hearing of this petition, the channel’s counsel had said that a show cause notice was issued to MediaOne on January 5 asking why its license should not be revoked in consideration of national security and public order. While the company had responded seeking an opportunity for hearing, the Ministry had ignored this and revoked its permission with immediate effect, he added. The channel’s counsel further mentioned that such a notice can only be served by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) and not the I&B Ministry.

However, after perusing the relevant files from the MHA that recommended the cancellation of the channel’s license citing national security reasons, the High Court, on February 8, said there was sufficient justification for the denial of security clearance to the channel and upheld the order that banned it.

When Madhyamam Broadcasting Ltd filed an appeal against this judgment, the Kerala High Court refused to grant interim relief to the channel. It was then that the company had moved the Supreme court challenging the High Court order.

It is notable that many of the investors in the company are reportedly members of the Kerala chapter of Jamaat-e-Islami.

The channel had previously been banned for 48 hours in 2020 for allegedly violating the provisions of the Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act 1998 during its reportage of the Delhi riots that year.

J&K Journalist Fahad Shah Booked Under Public Safety Act a Day Before Bail Hearing

A day before his scheduled bail hearing on a UAPA charge, the Jammu and Kashmir Police invoked the Public Safety Act against Fahad Shah, the founding editor of The Kashmir Walla, on Monday.

“Sensing that the Hon’ble Special Court may grant the bail as the allegations levelled against the accused does not prima facie connect him with the commission on any offence the authorities have taken recourse to J&K Public Safety Act,” wrote Shah’s legal counsel Umair Ronga.

The Public Safety Act, 1978, of Jammu Kashmir is an administrative detention law under which an individual can be detained for up to two years without any trial or charge. The Act also allows for the arrest of an individual without a warrant or specific charges and often for an unspecified period.

The 33-year-old journalist was awaiting bail hearing after being arrested for the third time in a month, each time shortly after being granted bail.

Shah was initially arrested on February 4 by the Pulwama police under the anti-terror law and sedition charges. However, he was granted bail 22 days later by a special court. Shortly after this, he was again arrested, this time in Shopian, in relation to a case filed by the Indian Army in January 2021 against two news portals, including The Kashmir Walla, for reporting that a local army unit forced an Islamic seminary school in Shopian to hold Republic Day celebrations on January 26.

Recently, on March 5, Shah was granted bail in this case. But, hours later, he found himself arrested again in relation to a new FIR registered by the Srinagar Police.

This third FIR was filed in relation to a story published by The Kashmir Walla about a May 2020 encounter in Srinagar, quoting family members of one of the deceased denying claims made by the police. He was once again booked under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, making it the second time the UAPA had been invoked against him in 37 days, as per Ronga.

On Friday, Shah was remanded to police custody for five days and his bail hearing was scheduled for Tuesday. However, a day before this, the J&K Police has invoked the Public Safety Act against the journalist.

Shah founded the online magazine, The Kashmir Walla, in 2009. He has also featured in reputed international publications, including Foreign AffairsTIME, and Foreign Policy, and is a winner of the 25th Human Rights Press Awards (2021) for explanatory feature writing for his coverage of communal violence in Delhi in February 2020.

Recently, a three-member Fact-Finding Committee (FFC) of the Press Council of India observed that the media in Jammu and Kashmir is “slowly being choked” due to the extensive curbs imposed by the local administration.

In its report, the committee which was formed by the PCI six months ago, said that “writing against government policies, or quoting a family or civilian sources in a story about excesses of the armed forces, or tweeting a point of view” could not be labelled as ‘fake news’ or ‘anti-national activity’ and lead to the arrest of a journalist for sedition. It added that it is not the business of journalists to support government policies or development work but rather to report the news as it happens.

The report further noted that it was concerning that the public relations work of government departments appears to have been taken over by the police.

Russia to Ban Instagram Over “Calls for Violence” Amidst Ongoing Ukraine Crisis

Roskomnadzor, Russia’s state-owned media agency, said that Instagram will be banned in the country owing to “calls for violence” against Russian soldiers and President Vladimir Putin, amidst the country’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine.

On Friday, the Russian Prosecutor General’s Office also called for a criminal investigation against Meta citing Russian propaganda and extremism laws.

Further, the Russian Embassy in the US has demanded authorities stop the “extremist activities” and take measures to “bring the perpetrators to justice.”

We demand that authorities stop the extremist activities of Meta, take measures to bring the perpetrators to justice. Users of Facebook and Instagram did not give the owners of these platforms the right to determine the criteria of truth and pit nations against each other,” the Russian Embassy in US tweeted on Friday. 

The social media platform, on Thursday, reportedly said that in a temporary change to its hate speech policy, it will allow users of Facebook and Instagram in some countries to “call for violence” against Russian soldiers and Putin.

Meta is also temporarily allowing some posts that “call for death” to Putin or Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, according to the internal emails to its content moderators.

“As a result of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, we have temporarily made allowances for forms of political expression that would normally violate our rules like violent speech such as ‘death to the Russian invaders.’ We still won’t allow credible calls for violence against Russian civilians,” stated a Meta spokesperson.

In a recent change to Meta’s rules on violence and incitement, as per an email, the aforementioned calls will be allowed unless they contain other targets or have two indicators of credibility, including the location or method.

“We are issuing a spirit-of-the-policy allowance to allow T1 violent speech that would otherwise be removed under the Hate Speech policy when: (a) targeting Russian soldiers, EXCEPT prisoners of war, or (b) targeting Russians where it’s clear that the context is the Russian invasion of Ukraine (e.g., content mentions the invasion, self-defense, etc.),” read the email.

It further stated that they are doing this because they have observed that “in this specific context, ‘Russian soldiers’ is being used as a proxy for the Russian military.”

“The Hate Speech policy continues to prohibit attacks on Russians,” the email added.

The temporary policy changes also apply to Armenia, Azerbaijan, Estonia, Georgia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Russia, Slovakia, and Ukraine.

Sharing the tweet by Russian Embassy in US, its India office wrote, “Noted the Reuters message that Meta permitted to post calls for violence against the Russian leadership & our military personnel on Facebook & Instagram.”

Recently last week, Russia had said that it was banning Facebook in the country, as a response to what it said were restrictions of access to Russian media on the platform.

Journalists Flee Russia in the Wake of Kremlin’s ‘Fake News’ Law Amidst Ukraine Crisis

As many as 150 journalists have reportedly fled Russia recently, following the implementation of a new law that punishes the publication of “knowingly fake information” in the country, amidst the ongoing invasion of Ukraine.

On Friday, Russian President Vladmir Putin signed a new law, according to which anyone who “intentionally” writes or spreads “false” or “fake” news will face imprisonment of up to 15  years. Among other things, the Kremlin reportedly objects to calling the ongoing conflict with Ukraine an “invasion” or a “war,” and instead wants it to be referred to as a “special military operation.” Authorities have blocked independent news websites that go against these directions or forced them to delete the offending articles. Novaya Gazeta, a Russian newspaper, shared a list of local media websites blocked by the government.

Following the passing of the ‘fake news’ law, nearly all journalists in Meduza’s Moscow newsroom as well as those from the television channel Dozhd, radio station Ekho Moskvy, and the newspaper Novaya Gazeta are believed to have fled Russia.

Ahead of passing the law, on Wednesday, members of the independent television channel Dozhd aka TV Rain resigned live on air, signing off with the message, “No war.” They also played the video of the ballet Swan Lake, mirroring what was done by the channels of erstwhile USSR upon its collapse.

That same day, Russia’s prosecutor general’s office restricted access to TV Rain and the independent radio station Ekho Moskvy, for allegedly urging people to take part in illegal protests and disseminating lies about Russia’s military operation.

Russian chess grandmaster and chairman of the non-profit Human Rights Foundation, Garry Kasparov wrote on Twitter that the shutting down of Ekho Moskvy and Dozhd, “the most prominent of the few Russian outlets allowed to be critical of the Kremlin,” pointed to Putin’s increasing “news blackout to prepare for more atrocities in Ukraine.”

After the passing of Kremlin’s ‘fake news’ law, several international media organisations, including the BBC, CBC, CNN, CBS News, and ABC News, announced that they would be temporarily suspending reporting in Russia, to protect their journalists from the media crackdown.

“Most of the employees of the BBC‘s Russian service (at least 15 people), Bloomberg and [US-funded RFE/RL] left Russia,” wrote the Russian news website Agentsvo, which said it interviewed 17 newsrooms for its report.

On Saturday, Dozhd journalist Mikhail Fishman was denied entry by authorities at Georgia’s Tbilisi International airport, after he flew to the country to be with his family, as per the Commitee to Protect Journalists (CPJ).

Following this, on Monday, the CPJ urged countries around the world to give refuge to independent Russian journalists who are “fleeing prosecution.”

“With independent journalists in Russia fleeing from an unprecedented number of threats, it is time for the international community to step up and offer them refuge,” said CPJ Europe and Central Asia Program Coordinator Gulnoza Said.

Update: BBC has resumed broadcast in Russia on Tuesday after taking into consideration the implications of the ‘fake news’ law alongside the urgent need to report from inside the country, the broadcaster announced. In a statement, the BBC said, “After careful deliberation, we have decided to resume English language reporting from Russia this evening (Tuesday, March 8), after it was temporarily suspended at the end of last week.”

However, on the same day, The New York Times said that it was temporarily removing its journalists from Russia due to the same law. “Russia’s new legislation seeks to criminalise independent, accurate news reporting about the war against Ukraine. For the safety and security of our editorial staff working in the region, we are moving them out of the country for now,” a spokesperson said in a statement.

Netflix Suspends Service in Russia, Tiktok Limits Service, International Media Suspend Reporting Amid Ukraine Crisis

Netflix, the global streaming giant, has suspended its service in Russia in protest over the country’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine.

“Given the circumstances on the ground, we have decided to suspend our service in Russia,” a spokesperson for Netflix said.

Earlier, on March 2, Netflix had announced that it is temporarily pausing all future projects and acquisitions in Russia, including those in post-production, like the detective drama Zato and three other ventures. The streaming platform also defied Russian law by not adding state-run channels to its service in the country.

Now, the streaming giant has decided to also shut down its service in the country entirely.

Meanwhile, TikTok, the Chinese-owned video-based social media platform, has suspended live streaming and new content in the country.

TikTok said in a series of tweets, on Sunday, that the safety of its employees and users is its highest priority. “In light of Russia’s new ‘fake news’ law, we have no choice but to suspend live streaming and new content to our video service while we review the safety implications of this law.”

The tweet refers to Russia’s announcement on Friday that anyone who “intentionally” writes or spreads “false” or “fake” news will face imprisonment of up to 15  years. Among other things, the Kremlin reportedly objects to calling the ongoing Ukraine invasion a ‘war’, and instead wants it to be called a ‘special military operation’.

While stating that it is limiting its service in Russia, TikTok clarified that the in-app messaging service will not be affected, and further wrote, “We will continue to evaluate the evolving circumstances in Russia to determine when we might fully resume our services with safety as our top priority.”

Soon after Russia’s announcement of the “fake news” law, several international media organisations, including the BBC, CBC, CNN, CBS News, and ABC News, also announced that they would be temporarily suspending reporting in Russia to protect their journalists from the new crackdown. The Washington Post and Reuters, on the other hand, said that they are evaluating the new law and the situation in the country.

TikTok further issued a longer statement stating that “the war in Ukraine is devastating” and has “brought pain to our community and our people.” The company also mentioned that it is committing humanitarian aid, starting with a $1 million donation, as part of its “continued dedication to assisting those most vulnerable in emergencies.”

Earlier, following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on February 24, Google-owned YouTube barred Russian channels from earning ad revenue on the video streaming platform. Soon after, major Hollywood studios such as Warner BrosDisneySony, Paramount Pictures, and Universal Pictures also distanced themselves from Russia and stalled the release of their films in the country.

J&K Journalist Fahad Shah Arrested a Third Time, Hours Post Bail

Fahad Shah, founding editor of The Kashmir Walla, was arrested for the third time in a month by Srinagar Police on Saturday evening, a few hours after the Shopian judicial magistrate court granted him bail for his previous arrest.

The most recent arrest pertains to his magazine’s reporting of an encounter that took place in Srinagar in May 2020. An FIR has been registered under sections 147 (punishment for rioting), 307 (attempt to murder), 109 (punishment for abutment), 501 (printing or engraving matter known to be defamatory), 505 (statements conducive to public mischief) of the Indian Penal Code. He is currently being held at Safakadal Police Station, Srinagar.

The 33-year-old journalist founded the online magazine in 2009 and has also featured in reputed international publications, including Foreign Affairs, TIME, and Foreign Policy. He is also a winner of the 25th Human Rights Press Awards (2021) for explanatory feature writing for his coverage of the communal violence in Delhi in February 2020.

Shah was initially arrested on February 4 by the Pulwama police, under the anti-terror law and sedition charges. However, he was granted bail on February 26 by a special court under the National Investigation Agency (NIA) Act after being held in custody for 22 days.

Shah’s next arrest in Shopian, which also came shortly after he was granted bail, was in relation to a case filed by the Indian Army in January 2021 against two news portals, including The Kashmir Walla, for reporting that a local army unit forced an Islamic seminary school to hold Republic Day celebrations on January 26 in Shopian. The case was filed under sections 153 (provocation with intent to cause riot) and 505 of the IPC.

The journalist was granted bail in this case on Saturday. While granting bail to Shah, Sayeem Qayoom, the Shopian magistrate, noted, “In a barbaric society you can hardly ask for bail, in a civilised society you can hardly refuse it. In other words, ‘bail is a rule and its refusal is an exception’.”

Hours later, however, Shah found himself arrested again in relation to a new FIR.

This third FIR was filed in relation to a story published by The Kashmir Walla about the May 2020 encounter, quoting family members of one of the deceased denying claims made by the police.

As per a statement issued by the Jammu and Kashmir police, Shah was wanted in three cases for “glorifying terrorism, spreading fake news and inciting general public, creating law and order situations.”

The statement also said he was arrested for social media posts “tantamount to glorifying the terrorist activities and causing dent to the image of law enforcing agencies besides causing ill-will and disaffection against the country.”

Shah’s legal team is currently working on moving a new bail application in the appropriate court.

Russian Network ‘RT America’ Shuts Down; To Lay Off Workforce by May 3

RT America, the US subsidiary of the Russia-backed media house RT, announced that it will cease its operations, after one of its two major satellite carriers in the country dropped the television network on Tuesday.

A memo from T&R Productions, the company behind Russia’s RT, read, “As a result of unforeseen business interruption events, T&R Productions, LLC, will be ceasing production and, therefore must lay off most of its staff who work at all its locations (Miami FL, New York NY, Los Angeles CA, Washington DC). Unfortunately, we anticipate this layoff will be permanent, meaning that this will result in the permanent separation from employment of most T&R employees at all locations.”

The memo added that the termination of employment will happen on or around May 3.

The move follows news of DirecTV cutting off ties with RT America. A spokesperson for DirecTV said, “In line with our previous agreement with RT America, we are accelerating this year’s contract expiration timeline and will no longer offer their programming effective immediately.” The agreement was due for renewal later this year.

Aside from DirecTV, DISH is the other major television provider for RT America, and even though it has not explicitly stated anything about continuing to carry the network, DISH voiced its support for Ukraine and said it is “closely monitoring the situation.”

Roku, the hardware company and streamer, has banned RT America from its platform as well.

The Russian state and its affiliated media and other entities have faced boycott from various organisations after the country launched a full-scale attack on Ukraine on February 24. From levying economic sanctions to diminishing Russia’s presence on social media, several measures are underway to isolate the country and put pressure on Kremlin to end the war.

As Russia’s war against Ukraine entered its second week, YouTube barred Russian creators from earning revenues from ads on its platform. YouTube spokesperson Farshad Shadloo said that videos from these channels will also feature low on recommendations. He added that the Russian media agency RT and several other channels would no longer be accessible in Ukraine, owing to a request from the Ukrainian government.

Earlier, Facebook also blocked Russian state media from running ads and monetising content on the platform.

Recently, major Hollywood studios such as Warner BrosDisneySony, Paramount Pictures, and Universal Pictures have also distanced themselves from Russia and stalled the release of their upcoming films in the country. Netflix too has paused all future projects and acquisitions in Russia, including those in post-production.

Editors Guild Demands Immediate Release of Journalist Kishore Ram

The Editors Guild of India has demanded the immediate release of Kishore Ram, the Dalit journalist recently arrested by the Uttarakhand Police on charges of inciting and promoting caste-based violence.

In a statement issued on Thursday, the Guild wrote that it is “deeply disturbed” by Ram’s arrest.

Ram was arrested on February 23 by the Pithoragarh police under section 153-A (promoting enmity between different groups) of the Indian Penal Code.

Ram, who is a journalist working for a news portal named Janjwar, has been reporting on issues faced by members of marginalised communities for a considerable period of time.

The FIR was registered against Ram for his reporting on two separate incidents – one pertaining to the death of a scheduled caste (SC) youth on February 13 and the other on the rape of two SC girls on February 18. In both cases, the journalist had interviewed those who were acquainted with the victims as well as their family members. He had uploaded the videos of the interviews on the website.

The police have accused Ram of “asking for the caste identities of people” and discussing the “killing of people belonging to SC community by upper caste people.”

Recently, those associated with Ram mentioned that the police have arrested him under fake charges. Following his arrest, members of civil society and a group of journalists held a protest at Dehradun on Sunday, demanding his release. They also wrote a letter to Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami urging the same.

Ajay Prakash, an editor at Janjwar, also told National Herald that crimes against members of the SC community are on the rise under the BJP regime in Uttarakhand. “Dalits are facing discrimination in every sphere of life. The Uttarakhand Police has arrested Ram for bringing out an inconvenient truth,” he added.

In its statement, the Editors Guild urged the state administration and the law enforcement agencies “to not use penal laws as tools of intimidation against journalists’ right to report on societal and caste-based issues.”

Ukraine Coverage is Racist, Says Middle Eastern Journalists Association

The Arab and Middle Eastern Journalists Association (AMEJA) has called out the coverage of the ongoing crisis in Ukraine by Western media for being racist.

A statement issued by the AMEJA stated that the organisation “condemns and categorically rejects orientalist and racist implications that any population or country is ‘uncivilized’ or bears economic factors that make it worthy of conflict.”

“This type of commentary reflects the pervasive mentality in Western journalism of normalising tragedy in parts of the world such as the Middle East, Africa, South Asia, and Latin America. It dehumanises and renders their experiences with war as somehow normal and expected,” the AMEJA added.

The organisation also citied examples of such racist news coverage that ascribe more importance to some war victims over others. The statement mentioned that on Saturday, anchor Charlie D’Agata of CBS News said, “This isn’t a place, with all due respect, like Iraq or Afghanistan, that has seen conflict raging for decades… This is a relatively civilised, relatively European — I have to choose those words carefully, too — city, where you wouldn’t expect that or hope that it’s going to happen.”

D’Agata issued an apology on air the following day, expressing regret over his comments. He further stated that he was only trying to convey that Ukraine has not witnessed war of this scale in recent years. “You should never compare conflicts anyway, each one is unique… I used a poor choice of words and I apologize for any offense I may have caused,” D’Agata added.

AMEJA also called out Al Jazeera anchor Peter Dobbie, who had remarked, “They are obviously not refugees trying to get away from the Middle East…or North Africa. They look like any European family that you’d live next door to.” Al Jazeera later apologised for his remarks via Twitter.

The statement from AMEJA also mentioned a report by Danniel Hannan of The Telegraph, who had written, “They seem so like us. That is what makes it so shocking. War is no longer something visited upon impoverished and remote populations. It can happen to anyone.”

Stating that media outlets should not make comparisons to weigh the significance of one crisis over another, AMEJA pointed out that all causalities and issues of displacement across the world are equally as debilitating as the situation in Ukraine.

“AMEJA stands in full solidarity with all civilians under military assault in any part of the world, and we deplore the difference in news coverage of people in one country versus another. Not only can such coverage decontextualize conflicts, but it contributes to the erasure of populations around the world who continue to experience violent occupation and aggression,” the organisation said. It further called on media organisations to provide training to anchors to avoid such explicit bias.

Another instance of overt racism was displayed by Ukrainian Deputy Chief Prosecutor, David Sakvarelidze, who told the BBC, “It’s very emotional for me because I see European people with blue eyes and blonde hair being killed.”

On February 21, Russian troops entered Ukraine from the eastern regions of Donetsk and Luhansk. This was followed by the launch of a large-scale invasion on February 24. On Tuesday, a 21-year-old Indian medical student was killed in the city of Kharkiv in eastern Ukraine, near the Russian border, marking India’s first casualty in the war.

YouTube Restricts Russian Channels From Monetising on Ukraine’s Invasion

YouTube has barred Russian channels from earning ad revenue from the video streaming platform, amidst Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on February 24.

The Google-owned platform said that it was “pausing a number of channels’ ability to monetise on YouTube, including several Russian channels affiliated with recent sanctions,” referring to the recent economic curbs that countries like the US, UK, France, and Germany have levied on Russia.

YouTube spokesperson Farshad Shadloo said that videos from the affected channels will also feature low on recommendations on the site. He added that the Russian media agency RT and several other channels would no longer be accessible in Ukraine, owing to a request from the Ukrainian government.

While the streaming platform has declined to disclose the currently barred channels, Ukraine’s Digital Transformation Minister Mykhailo Fedorov tweeted on Saturday, urging YouTube to block “propagandist Russian channels — such as Russia 24, TASS, RIA Novosti.”

Russia’s military incursion in Ukraine has resulted in the mass migration of Ukrainian population to other countries. The three-pronged attack has garnered global criticism with other social media platforms such Twitter and Facebook also imposing curbs on Russia.

Fedorov had earlier tweeted about Twitter’s decision to “to block Russians the opportunity to register new accounts in Russian Federation.”

Meta, or erstwhile Facebook, also announced, ‘We are now prohibiting Russian state media from running ads or monetising on our platform anywhere in the world. We also continue to apply labels to additional Russian state media,” according to Nathaniel Gleicher, the company’s head of security policy.

The social media platform which had earlier come under fire for spreading hate-speech and misinformation, noted that it has “temporarily removed the ability to view and search the “Friends” list for Facebook accounts in Ukraine to help protect people from being targeted.”

Restrictions have also trickled into Instagram, where Ukrainian users now have privacy and an account security alert system with guidelines on incorporating ways to protect one’s account.

In a bid to isolate Russia from the world, Fedorov has also requested Netflix to block the Russian Federation’s access to the streaming platform and shut off Russian content. The OTT platform is yet to respond to the appeal.

UPDATE: Russian state communications regulator Roskomnadzor, on Sunday, demanded that the restrictions imposed on the Russian-language YouTube channels of media outlets be removed, Reuters has reported. The organisation has written to Google, which owns YouTube, regarding the same.

‘The Wire’ Ordered to Take Down 14 Articles after Bharat Biotech Files Rs 100 Crore Defamation Suit

A Telangana court has directed The Wire to take down 14 articles published about Bharat Biotech International Limited and its Covid-19 vaccine, Covaxin, after the company filed a Rs 100 crore defamation suit against the publication.

The Additional District Judge at Ranga Reddy District Court also restrained The Wire from publishing any further defamatory articles on Bharat Biotech and Covaxin.

The suit names Foundation for Independent Journalism, the publisher of The Wire, its Editors Siddharth Varadarajan, Sidharth Roshanlal Bhatia, and MK Venu, and nine others who wrote articles about the company and its vaccine.

Bharat Biotech alleged that The Wire had published articles which contained false allegations against the company and its product with a “malicious” intent to undermine the reputation of the manufacturer. It further alleged that the news portal has published several articles with false accusations on the authorization approvals of the vaccine without verifying the facts.

Senior Counsel K Vivek Reddy, representing Bharat Biotech, noted that the company, which has previously developed vaccines for Tuberculosis, Zika Rotavirus, Chikungunya and Typhoid, has received national and global recognition and that it collaborated with leading Indian institutions to develop the vaccine.

Following the hearing on Wednesday, the court observed that despite the approval of the Government of India for Bharat Biotech’s vaccine, The Wire continued to publish articles about the company and its product.

The court also noted that Bharat Biotech is the only company which has been authorised to manufacture a Covid-19 vaccine for children aged 15-18 and that the defamatory articles published on the website will lead to vaccine hesitancy. In view of this, the court directed the removal of the 14 articles and restrained The Wire from publishing any more similar reports on the company and its product.

Following the court’s order, Varadaranjan took to Twitter and said that the publisher was not served any notice nor given any chance to refute the allegations made by Bharat Biotech against the “14 deeply reported Covaxin stories” that were published over the course of a year. “Let me say this—BB’s (Bharat Biotech) bullying will not work,” he added.

As per The Wire, they came to know about the case and the order only from the Bar and Bench reportage.

The Wire and its editors were not served any notice or intimated in any way about these proceedings. At no stage were we contacted by Bharat Biotech or its counsel. The Telangana court’s order, which we have learned about only through Bar and Bench, has been passed without giving The Wire an opportunity to be heard,” wrote the editors

They further said that they would legally challenge the order and “resist any attempt to curb freedom of the press.”

UN Calls for End to Attacks Against Journalist Rana Ayyub; India Says Allegations of Judicial Harassment are “Baseless and Unwarranted”

The United Nations, on Monday, called for an end to the judicial harassment of journalist Rana Ayyub and an investigation into the “relentless misogynistic and sectarian” online attacks on her.

The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights issued the statement based on the report of two experts: Irene Khan, Special Rapporteur on the right to freedom of opinion and expression, and Mary Lawlor, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders.

Ayyub, an independent investigative journalist and woman human rights defender, “continues to be the victim of intensifying attacks and threats online by far-right Hindu nationalist groups,” the experts at the UN said.

They further added that these attacks are a result of Ayuub’s reportage on issues affecting minority Muslims in India, her criticism of the Union Government for its handling of the pandemic, and her comments on the recent ban on hijabs in schools and colleges in Karnataka. “In response to Ms Ayyub’s efforts to shine a light on public interest issues and hold power to account through her reporting, she has been maliciously targeted with anonymous death and rape threats by organised groups online,” said the statement.

Earlier this month, Ayyub had taken to Twitter to extend her gratitude to the Mumbai Cyber Crime Cell for making the first arrest over the rape and death threats issued to her through various social media platforms.

The report from the UN experts also added that Ayyub has been subjected to legal harassment from the Indian authorities for a number of years.

It further said that the lack of condemnation and proper investigation by the Government of India, “coupled with the legal harassment it has itself inflicted on Ms Ayyub, has only served to falsely legitimise the attacks and attackers and further endangered her safety.”

“It is imperative that the authorities take urgent measures to protect her from the onslaught of threats and hate online and end the investigation against her,” the statement concluded.

Responding to this, the Permanent Mission of India in Geneva (the official delegation representing India at the UN) called the allegations of harassment “baseless and unwarranted” and accused the UN of “advancing a misleading narrative.”

Allegations of so-called judicial harassment are baseless and unwarranted. India upholds the rule of law, but is equally clear that no one is above the law. We expect SRs (Special Rapporteur) to be objective and accurately informed. Advancing a misleading narrative only tarnishes the UN’s reputation,” wrote India at UN, Geneva. 

It is notable that on February 10, the Enforcement Directorate (ED) froze Rs 1.77 crore belonging to Ayyub. The journalist’s assets were frozen by ED based on an FIR registered by the Uttar Pradesh police against her, in September 2021. The complaint was raised by one Vikas Sankrityayan, founder of an NGO called “Hindu IT Cell” and a resident of Indirapuram in Ghaziabad, who alleged that Ayyub had diverted large funds collected through Ketto, an online crowding platform, for relief work.

The police invoked sections of IPC, IT Act and also Section 4 of Black Money Act, alleging that she illegally acquired money from the public, in the name of charity.

The UN observed that this was the second time in six months that her bank accounts and other assets were frozen in response to “seemingly baseless allegations of money laundering and tax fraud, related to her crowd-funding campaigns to provide assistance to those affected by the pandemic.”

Meanwhile, The Washington Posta leading international publication, ran a full-page statement expressing solidarity with Ayyub. “She has been the target of prejudiced investigations and online harassment,” wrote the newspaper, adding the hashtag #WeStandWithRana.

Editors Guild Demands Withdrawal of PIB’s New Media Accreditation Guidelines

In a statement on Sunday, the Editors Guild of India said it had written to the Press Information Bureau of India (PIB) demanding the withdrawal of the newly-released Media Accreditation Guidelines.

The Guild has also urged the PIB to undertake meaningful consultation with all the stakeholders, in case it is intent on revising the guidelines.

Earlier this month, the PIB published the new ‘Central Media Accreditation Guidelines 2022’, which came into effect on February 1 and determine the accreditation of all journalists to access and report from the headquarters of the Government of India.

Under these new guidelines, a journalist’s accreditation will be withdrawn or suspended if they “act in a manner detrimental to the security, sovereignty and integrity of the country,” or to India’s “amicable relations with foreign states.” Further, if a journalist’s actions are “detrimental to public order, decency or morality” or they are involved in “contempt of court, defamation or incitement to an offence,” they may lose their accreditation.

The guidelines also state that a journalist “charged with a serious cognisable offence” would also lose accreditation.

The Guild, in its statement, pointed out that it is “bizarre that merely being charged has been mentioned as a ground for cancellation.”

“Worse still, concerned journalists have not been given an opportunity to be heard. Most surprisingly, ‘defamation’ has been included as a ground for cancellation,” the Guild further wrote.

The statement also pointed out that many of the criteria for cancellation are “vague and subjective.” The Guild added that this was especially concerning since no procedures have been set out and there is no mention of the adjudicating authority that will decide on suspension.

Further, the Guild wrote, “A new clause requiring police verification has been added without defining the contours of such verification. Since no standards have been prescribed, it can grant unfettered powers to the police for denying accreditation to journalists who may be seen as critical of the government.”

Calling the new guidelines “arbitrary, vague and draconian,” the Guild said that such clauses have been included with an “intent to restrict any critical and investigative reporting of the government affairs.”

In another more detailed letter addressed to Jaideep Bhatnagar, the Principal Director General, PIB, the Guild has also expressed its surprise over the lack of consultation with press organisations and media bodies before issuing the new guidelines.

“This is arbitrary and violates due process of the law for the following reasons: (i) it does not provide for an adjudicating authority to decide on suspension, (ii) lacks procedural safeguards of right of hearing, recording of reasons, provision of appeal, etc; and (iii) is a disproportionate and uncalled for punishment for actions that already have existing remedies in law,” the letter stated.

Previously, on February 11, five media bodies had also written to the Information and Broadcasting Minister Anurag Thakur, regarding the same issue.

J&K Court Issues Arrest Warrant Against Journalist Gowhar Geelani

A court in the Shopian district of south Kashmir has issued an arrest warrant against journalist-author Gowhar Geelani, following his non-appearance after being served a notice.

On Thursday, the executive magistrate directed the Station House Officer (SHO) at Heepora in Shopian to produce Geelani before the court by Saturday “in order to maintain peace and public tranquillity.”

Gowhar, author of Kashmir: Rage and Reason, works for publications such as BBC, Deutsche Welle, Telegraph and The Federal. He is a vocal critic of the state government and its policies.

On February 1, a complaint was received by the police stating that Gowhar had acted against public interest when he shared information on social media about a policeman being injured by a militant attack in Shopian.

Following this, Geelani was served a notice on February 3, stating that he was booked under Section 107 of the CrPC. According to this section, an executive magistrate can require a person to show cause why they should not be ordered to execute a bond if the magistrate receives information that the person is likely to commit a breach of peace or disturb public tranquillity.

Geelani was also summoned to appear before the court on February 7 regarding this charge.

“You have disseminated information on social media that would have endangered the life of the injured individual and other persons. Besides, circulation of your information has raised serious security and breach of peace concerns,” the court stated.

When the journalist failed to appear before the court, the arrest warrant was issued against him by the magistrate. Moreover, the arrest warrant against Geelani also stated that he was booked under Section 151 of the CrPC, under which an individual can be placed in detention indefinitely. The previous notice had only mentioned Section 107, according to The Wire.

Earlier, in 2019, the Jammu and Kashmir Police had booked Geelani under the UAPA for “indulging in unlawful activities through his posts and writings on social media platforms which are prejudicial to the national integrity, sovereignty and security of India.”

Geelani is the third journalist to be booked in 2022 in Kashmir over social media posts, after Fahad Shah, editor of Kashmir Walla, who was arrested in February, and Sajad Gul in January.

Earlier this week, 58 human rights organisations and media outlets, including the Reporters Without Borders (RSF) and the Press Club of India, wrote a joint open letter to the territory’s New Delhi-appointed lieutenant governor, calling for the immediate release of Shah, as well as other detained Kashmiri journalists such as Gul. The letter also called for an end to the policy of systematic censorship implemented in the region.

Mumbai Court Summons Actor Shilpa Shetty and Family, Over Non-Repayment of Loan

Actor Shilpa Shetty, along with her sister, actor Shamita Shetty, and mother Sunanda Shetty have been summoned to appear before a Mumbai court over alleged non-repayment of a loan.

According to ANI, “Andheri court has issued an order summoning actress Shilpa Shetty Kundra, her sister Shamita Shetty and mother Sunanda Shetty, following a complaint by a businessman who has alleged a non-repayment of Rs 21 lakhs loan by them; court orders the three to appear on February 28.”

The complainant, an automobile agency owner, claimed that the trio had cheated him of Rs 21 lakh, after the actor’s father, Surendra Shetty, had borrowed the said amount from him, in 2015.

He added that Shetty, her mother and sister failed to repay the loan, which was borrowed at an annual interest rate of 18% and was due in January 2017. The cheque was reportedly addressed to Surendra’s company.

However, Surendra Shetty died in October 2016, but the sisters and their mother have refused to repay the loan despite having prior knowledge of it. They have also denied owing any money to the businessman.

Shilpa Shetty has been in the midst of several controversies, lately.

In January, Shetty was discharged by a Mumbai court in the obscenity case that was filed against her, after American actor Richard Gere publicly kissed her at a promotional event in Rajasthan, back in 2007.  Shetty garnered immense criticism for the incident, for not resisting the act. The court, however, ruled that Shetty seemed to be a “victim” in the case and that Gere was the main accused, in January 2022.

In November 2021, Shetty was mentioned in an FIR along with husband Raj Kundra, for cheating the director of a fitness company.

Kundra was arrested in a pornography case for being the “key conspirator”, in July 2021. He was accused of making porn films under the pretext of producing short films for OTT platforms and distributing them on multiple apps. Many actors were reportedly involved in the case including Sherlyn Chopra, who had filed a complaint against both Shetty and Kundra, alleging that she was a victim of fraud and mental harassment. In response, the couple filed a defamation suit against her.

Kundra was granted bail in September after spending two months in jail.

Kevin Smith Speaks Out Against Oscars For Omitting ‘Spider-Man: No Way Home’ From Best Picture Nominations

Podcaster Kevin Smith spoke out the Academy for not nominating Marvel‘s Spider-Man: No Way Home in the Best Picture category. He asked the Oscars curators to instead make a populist choice.

Speaking about it on his podcast FatMan Beyond, Smith said, “I would just like to congratulate the good folks who made Spider-Man: No Way Home for the very deserved Best Picture nomination that I’m sure it got, I didn’t read the nods.”

Upon being informed that the third part in the Spider-Man: Homecoming trilogy had not made the cut, Smith said, “What the fuck? They got ten slots, they can’t give one to the biggest fucking movie of like the last three years?”. He added, “Man, and they’re like, ‘Why won’t anyone watch this show?’ Like fucking make a populist choice, fuck, man. You got how many slots? Throw in Spider-Man for God’s sakes. Let him swing in there. Fucking poor kid’s always getting crapped on and sh-t, show Peter Parker some fucking love. I’m not even being facetious, with as many movies as they have nominated for Best Picture…”

However, he later released an apology video, on Sunday. In it, he said, “I am puzzled, as to why my comments have become such a magnet for a lots of folks. They want to throw the book at me and I don’t quite get it, man.”

No Way Home released worldwide, in mid-December, and became the biggest film of 2021 having garnered over $1.7 billion, and counting. It has also been nominated for visual effects at the Oscars alongside Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings.

The Jon Watts-directorial stars ctors Tom Holland, Zendaya, and Jacob Batalon reprising their roles as Peter Parker aka Spider-Man, Michelle Jones aka MJ, and Ned Leeds, respectively. Benedict Cumberbatch, who essays Doctor Strange in the MCU, is part of the cast as well.

The story follows Peter Parker alias Spider-Man as he fights multiple villains from earlier Spider-Man films, who return after Doctor Strange unleashes the multiverse to help Parker.

Despite Disney and Sony putting their best foot forward during promotions, none of their superhero films earned nominations in the Best Picture category.

Last week, host Jimmy Kimmel reflected similar sentiments as Smith on his show Jimmy Kimmel Live and called Spider-Man’s omission “unforgivable.”

“Why do Best Picture nominees have to be serious? When did that become a prerequisite for getting nominated for an Academy Award?” Kimmel said. “How did [Spider-Man: No Way Home] not get one of the 10 nominations for best picture? Forget the fact that the movie made $750 million [in the US] and is still going. This was a great movie. It wasn’t in the top 10 best movies of the year? There were three Spider-Men in it. You’re telling me Don’t Look Up was better than Spider-Man? It most certainly was not.”

The Oscar nominations were announced on February 8.

Contenders in the Best Picture category, include, The Power of the Dog, BelfastCODADon’t Look UpDrive My CarDuneKing RichardLicorice Pizza, Nightmare Alley, and West Side Story.

The winners will be announced on March 27.

Kerala High Court Grants No Interim Relief to MediaOne, Continues to Ban Telecast

No interim relief was granted to the Malayalam news channel MediaOne by the Kerala High Court on Thursday in its appeal against the recent court order upholding the ban on its telecast by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting.

During the hearing on Thursday, the Additional Solicitor General appearing for the State also sought time to produce certain documents in a sealed cover and to file a counter affidavit in the case.

The case in question began when MediaOne went off air on January 31 after its license renewal was denied by the Ministry citing national security reasons. Shortly after this, its operator Madhyamam Broadcasting Limited filed a writ petition before the High Court seeking to set aside the order issued by the I&B Ministry. The petition stated that the channel was not involved in any sort of anti-national activity.

During a previous hearing of the petition, the channel’s counsel had said that a show cause notice was issued to MediaOne on January 5 asking why its license should not be revoked in consideration of national security and public order. While the company had responded seeking an opportunity for hearing, the Ministry had ignored this and revoked its permission with immediate effect, he added. The channel’s counsel further mentioned that such a notice can only be served by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) and not the I&B Ministry.

It is notable that many of the investors in the company are reportedly members of the Kerala chapter of Jamaat-e-Islami. The channel had previously been banned for 48 hours in 2020 for allegedly violating the provisions of the Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act 1998 during its reportage of the Delhi riots that year.

On February 4, the High Court had asked the MHA to produce the files that recommended the cancellation of the news channel. After perusing the files from the MHA, the High Court observed on Tuesday that it had found sufficient justification for the denial of security clearance to the channel and hence upheld the revocation of its license.

A day after, Madhyamam Broadcasting Limited moved the High Court challenging its order.

During the hearing of its appeal on Thursday, MediaOne’s counsel Dushyant Dave argued that this was immaterial. He cited several cases such as the Romesh Thapar case, the Bennett Coleman case, the Express Newspapers case, among others where the court held that the freedom of press was an essential element of freedom of expression and Article (19)(a).

The court questioned the ASG regarding the provision or law for the revocation of license and said “Revocation is totally denying them any right. It is an absolute cancellation. Section 9 deals with renewal. Is there any similar provision for revocation?”

However the court remarked, “The guidelines have provisions for renewal, revocation and denial of a license. But revocation is a penalty as per the guidelines”.

Kerala High Court Upholds Ban on MediaOne

The Kerala High Court, on Tuesday, upheld the revocation of the license of Malayalam news channel MediaOne by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting.

On January 31, MediaOne went off air after its license renewal was denied by the Ministry citing national security reasons. Shortly after this, its operator Madhyamam Broadcasting Limited filed a writ petition before the High Court seeking to set aside the order issued by the I&B Ministry. The petition stated that the channel was not involved in any sort of anti-national activity.

During a previous hearing of the petition, the channel’s counsel had said that a show cause notice was issued to MediaOne on January 5 asking why its license should not be revoked in consideration of national security and public order. While the company had responded seeking an opportunity for hearing, the Ministry had ignored this and revoked its permission with immediate effect, he added. The channel’s counsel further mentioned that such a notice can only be served by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) and not the I&B Ministry.

It is notable that many of the investors in the company are reportedly members of the Kerala chapter of Jamaat-e-Islami. The channel had previously been banned for 48 hours in 2020 for allegedly violating the provisions of the Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act 1998 during its reportage of the Delhi riots that year.

On Friday, the High Court had asked the MHA to produce the files that recommended the cancellation of the news channel.

After perusing the files from the MHA, the High Court observed on Tuesday that it had found sufficient justification for the denial of security clearance to the channel. “Going through the files, I find that the Ministry has called for intelligence inputs. Based on the intelligence inputs, the committee of officers has found that security clearance should not be given. The Ministry has decided to accept the finding of the committee of officers. There are inputs justifying the denial of security clearance. Therefore, I am dismissing the writ petition,” the court ruled, thus upholding the ban on the channel.

The I&B Ministry subsequently released a statement noting that the High Court had “upheld the revocation of uplink and downlink permission to Media One News and Current Affairs Channel by Ministry of Information and Broadcasting.”

However, MediaOne said in a statement that “the legal battle against the central government’s action will continue.”

GOI Disagrees with India’s Poor Ranking in World Press Freedom Index, Questions Methodology

The Government of India said on Tuesday that it does not agree with the country’s ranking in the World Press Freedom Index published by Reporters Without Borders. India ranked 142nd out of 180 in the index in both 2020 and 2021, down from the 140th place in 2019.

GOI pointed out that the publisher of the rankings is a foreign non-government organisation and said it therefore does not subscribe to its views. The union government further questioned the methodology used by the NGO for drawing its conclusions, citing reasons such as “a very low sample size, little or no weightage to fundamentals of democracy, adoption of a methodology which is questionable and non-transparent, lack of clear definition of press freedom, etc.”

This came as a response from the Ministry of Home Affairs to the questions raised by MP Manish Tiwari in Parliament.

The two questions Tiwari raised were whether the journalists in Kashmir and the whole of India are frequently penalised by State agencies under the Indian Penal Code, UAPA and other penal laws; and whether it is due to such abhorrent coercion that India holds a poor 142nd position in the World Press Freedom Index. 

“The government is committed to ensure the right to freedom of speech and expression enshrined under the Article 19 of the Constitution of India,” replied Minister of State Nityanand Rai, who also noted that GOI does not subscribe to the views and country rankings of Reporters Without Borders.

He further mentioned that a statutory autonomous body, Press Council of India (PCI), has been set up under the Press Council Act, 1978 “mainly to preserve the freedom of the Press and improve the standards of newspapers and news agencies in the country.”

“PCI considers complaints filed by the Press concerning curtailment of press freedom, physical assault/attack on journalists etc. PCI is also empowered to take suo-motu cognizance in matters on the pressing issues concerning freedom of press and safeguarding of its high standards. Such complaints are processed under Section 13 of the Press Council Act, 1978 and provisions of the Press Council (Procedure for Inquiry) Regulations, 1979,” Rai added. 

It is notable that recently, in November 2021, the Press Club of India expressed disappointment over the media not being allowed to enter the Parliament to cover the Winter Session 2021 and termed it “blatant censorship.”

Earlier, in October 2021, several journalists were booked and detained under the stringent UAPA for reporting on the communal violence in Tripura. Following this, the Editors Guild of India sent a three-member fact finding team to Agartala noting that it was “concerned by the reports of draconian criminal laws being used to prevent media from reporting on acts of violence in the state of Tripura.”

Before that, in March, the Editors Guild had expressed concern over freedom of press in the country, following the issue of the new Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules 2021.

Tiwari also brought up the issue of the recent hostile takeover of the Kashmir Press Club. The KPC was shut down days after this incident.

Rai said, “Presently, there is no registered body by the name of ‘Kashmir Press Club’ or its elected managing body since Kashmir Press Club, as a registered body, has ceased to exist and has failed to register itself under the Societies Registration Act, 1860. The Estates Department has taken over the government building on January 17 in the presence of Executive Magistrate, Srinagar. The government building has deployment of static guard for its protection.”

Several press organisations, however, have condemned this move and urged the restoration of the KPC’s registration. “With the shutting down of the club and government reverting the land back to the Estates Department, an important journalistic institution in a region that has seen the worst kind of state heavy handedness against any independent media, has been effectively dismantled,” said the Editors Guild.