Indian poll watchdog stops web series on Modi

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi gestures after releasing India's ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)'s election manifesto for the April/May general election, in New Delhi, India, April 8, 2019. (REUTERS)
Updated 21 April 2019

Indian poll watchdog stops web series on Modi

  • India’s mammoth six-week vote began on April 11 and will run until May 19, with results due on May 23
  • Last week, the Supreme Court told it to act tough on complaints of poll violations by political leaders

NEW DELHI: India’s poll watchdog Saturday ordered producers to stop streaming a web series on Prime Minister Narendra Modi, weeks after it banned a Bollywood film and clamped down on a TV channel devoted to the right-wing premier.
The Election Commission of India — an autonomous body tasked with overseeing the world’s biggest democratic exercise — said the online web series was in violation of its rules.
Under Indian election regulations, the publication of any content which is deemed as campaign material or propaganda is not allowed during the voting period.
Any political advertising must also be approved by the election authorities so that all spending is accounted for.
India’s mammoth six-week vote began on April 11 and will run until May 19, with results due on May 23.
When it ordered a halt to the streaming of the online series, the commission said any biopic material which has the “potential to disturb the level playing field” should not be displayed until after the polls have closed.
The series, titled “Modi: Journey of a Common Man” is produced by Eros Now and traces Modi’s journey from childhood to becoming the prime minister of the world’s largest democracy.
Earlier this month, the commission banned the release of a flattering movie about Modi until after voting finishes.
Days later it ordered a clampdown on NaMo TV, a channel showing 24-hour programs on Modi rallies, speeches, and even rap songs and dance routines devoted to the leader.
The Election Commission said NaMo TV had to submit all of its content for approval.
The Hindu nationalist Modi, 68, is seeking a tough re-election after storming to power in 2014.
He often uses his humble upbringing as a tea-seller’s son to strike a chord with millions of poor voters.
The election commission — often accused of being ineffective — has been flooded with complaints since campaigning started in March.
Last week, the Supreme Court told it to act tough on complaints of poll violations by political leaders.


Family of detained UK consulate worker rejects ‘made-up’ report

Updated 20 min 2 sec ago

Family of detained UK consulate worker rejects ‘made-up’ report

  • Simon Cheng disappeared after visiting Shenzhen on August 8
  • Beijing confirmed they detained an employee of a British consulate

BEIJING: The family of a staffer at the UK consulate in Hong Kong have rejected a “made-up” report by Chinese state media that he was detained in the mainland for visiting prostitutes.
Simon Cheng disappeared after visiting the city of Shenzhen from the semi-autonomous city on August 8, and the Foreign Office in London said both British officials and relatives have been unable to speak to him since.
The Global Times, a tabloid state-run newspaper, said he had been detained for “soliciting prostitutes,” citing police in Shenzhen, which lies on the China-Hong Kong border.
But a Facebook page run by Cheng’s family dismissed the report.
“This is a made-up crime of soliciting prostitution, everyone should see it’s a joke,” the comment said.
Beijing confirmed Wednesday an employee of the British consulate had been “placed in administrative detention for 15 days as punishment” by police in Shenzhen for breaking a public security law.
“Let me clarify, this employee is a Hong Kong citizen, he’s not a UK citizen, which is also saying he’s a Chinese person,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said.
According to the Global Times, Cheng could be detained for up to 15 days and fined up to 5,000 yuan ($700) for the alleged crime.
In an editorial on Friday, the tabloid said it was at Cheng’s request that police did not contact his family and that “thanks to the British foreign ministry and media, which have been hyping it, the case is now fully exposed.”
Cheng was in the process of returning via high-speed train on August 8 and sent messages to his girlfriend as he was about to go through customs.
He has not been seen or heard from since.
The family said it had hired a lawyer in Shenzhen who had been unable to find or speak to the detained consulate employee.
Police in Shenzhen did not reply to AFP’s request for comment.
A spokesperson for the British Foreign Office said in a statement Thursday that it was continuing “to urgently seek further information about Simon’s case.”
The incident comes as relations between Britain and China have become strained over what Beijing calls London’s “interference” in pro-democracy protests that have wracked Hong Kong for three months.
China promised to respect the freedoms in the semi-autonomous territory after its handover from Britain in 1997 — including freedom of speech, unfettered access to the Internet and an independent judiciary — but protesters say these rights are being eroded.
Chinese authorities have increased their inspections at the border since the protests, including checking the phones and devices of some passengers for photos of the demonstrations.
Beijing has faced criticism in the past for detaining foreign nationals amid ongoing diplomatic spats, and for accusing dissidents or activists of sex crimes.