A UK-based Sikh channel carrying independent news and views of the community is facing disruption in India.
Akaal Channel has not been assessable via Facebook or Youtube since today (6 June), according to promoters of the seven-year old channel and as confirmed by independent parties.
The disruption comes on the heels of an uproar within the Sikh community when they found that searches for the #Sikh hashtag had been blocked at Facebook and Instagram, two hugely popular social media platforms owned by billionaire Mark Zuckerberg.
“This is a direct onslaught on our freedom of expression,” said Akaal Channel founder Amrik Singh Kooner.
The broadcast disruption comes after Congress parliamentarian Ravneet Singh Bittu, the grandson of former Punjab chief minister Beant Singh, alleged that Akaal Channel had crossed “crossed all levels”, including running an interview with a supposed ‘terrorist’.
This is a second onslaught on the Sikh community involving Facebook. Just days before, Sikhs the world over were shocked when they found out that Facebook and Instagram had ‘mistakenly’ blocked the #Sikh hashtag since mid-March.
The hashtag blocking took place at a time when Sikhs globally were reflecting on the Indian army attack upon the Harmandir Sahib, popularly known as the Golden Temple, and countless other gurdwaras in Punjab in 1984. Referred to as the #1984 Sikh genocide, the incident also involved the killing and disappearance of thousands of Sikhs.
Akaal Channel is said to be watched in more than 150 nations.
“The launch ardas was done at the Akaal Takht. I had invested whatever little savings I had into this channel,” said Amrik in a statement read out today.
In an immediate comment, UK-based academic activist and Akaal Channel presenter Dr Gurnam Singh said it was ‘totally outrageous’ for the Indian state to ban the channel broadcasts in India, apparently at the behest of Congress lawmaker.
“Even more worrying is the fact that YouTube and Facebook are dancing to the tune of the the Indian State by blocking the channel from their platforms. So much for freedom of speech and democracy!,” he said.
#Sikh hashtag blocked at Facebook and Instagram (Asia Samachar, 4 May 2020)