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
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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.


Jailed hardline Buddhist monk granted pardon in Sri Lanka

Updated 40 min 50 sec ago
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Jailed hardline Buddhist monk granted pardon in Sri Lanka

  • Galagoda Aththe Gnanasara Thero was serving a six-year jail term for contempt of court
  • The pardon comes just a week after anti-Muslim violence erupted in many parts of the country

COLOMBO: Bodu Bala Sena (BBS) secretary-general Galagoda Aththe Gnanasara Thero was released from prison in Colombo on a presidential pardon on Thursday.

The firebrand monk, notorious for his hardline views, was serving a six-year jail term for contempt of court.

The monk, who has been accused of inciting violence against the Muslim community in the country, was also convicted and given a six-month jail term over intimidating Sandya Ekneligoda, the wife of missing journalist Pradeep Ekneligoda.

The hardline Buddhist group had called on its supporters to gather outside Welikada Prison, where Gnanasara Thero was serving his jail term.

While a massive crowd was waiting at the prison’s main gate to welcome the monk, the yellow-robed priest was let out of the backdoor for security reasons.

BBS chief executive officer Dilantha Withanage told Arab News that all Sri Lankans are happy that the BBS leader has been released and the society is grateful to President Maithripala Sirisena for granting him a pardon.

“We feel that justice was received even at this juncture,” Withanage said.

The pardon comes just a week after anti-Muslim violence erupted in many parts of the country, resulting in serious damage to Muslim-owned homes, mosques and commercial establishments. One person was killed during the violence, which lasted two days before it was brought under control.

President Sirisena, who visited the Welikada Prison last week to pardon 762 prisoners on Vesak Day, held discussions with the monk for more than 45 minutes.

Islamic Solidarity Front Chairman Reyaaz Salih told Arab News that forgiveness is an important aspect of Islam.

“He has been pardoned by the president of the country and we all hope that his presence will help the nation to have a peaceful co-existence with all communities,” he said, adding that Thero will be able to bridge the gap between the Muslims and the Sinhalese communities, opened up by the anti-Muslim violence, by virtue of his effective communication skills.

Western Province Gov. Azath Salley, who visited the jail on Wednesday, said that he would continue to work for better communal understanding with the monk.

However, in his twitter account leading constitutional lawyer J. C. Weliamuna said: “Pardoning Ven. Gnanasara is a slap on the independence of judiciary: He was convicted of interfering with court and of contempt of court. No civilized nation will lightly pardon such a convict."

International Crisis Group Sri Lanka Project Director Alan Keenan tweeted saying that that the move will send out the wrong signals following the Easter Sunday attacks.

“A big blow to SriLanka’s already battered rule of law, sending precisely the wrong message after Easter attacks. A peaceful Lanka requires all communities to feel safe and equal.”

A majority of the Muslim community felt Gnanasara Thero responsible for inciting violence against Muslims, linking him to the Aluthgama anti-Muslim violence in 2014.