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Hotstar blocks PM Modi-centric episode of Last Week Tonight with John Oliver

Disney-owned Hotstar seems to have censored the latest episode of HBO’s popular talk show Last Week Tonight, which is centred around Prime Minister Narendra Modi. According to Hotstar, new episodes of the show hosted by John Oliver, are uploaded every Tuesday at 6 AM. However, at the time of writing this story, the episode still hasn’t gone up on the platform. We have reached out to Hotstar to understand the reasons behind censoring the entire episode.

In the episode, which is available on the show’s YouTube channel, Oliver talked about the controversial Citizenship Amendment Act, and said that the PM Modi-led government, “has pursued a steadily escalating persecution of religious minorities”. He also called the Prime Minister a “Hindu nationalist”, and added that addressing him as the “father of India” is “stupid at best and dangerous at worst”. Oliver also touched upon the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), and talked about the organisation’s founding fathers’ admiration for Adolf Hitler.

Not the first case of censorship: This isn’t the first time that Hotstar has censored content on its platform. In November 2019, it had reportedly censored jokes made on Disney, its owners, by Oliver on Last Week Tonight.

  • In January 2019, it had taken down the Koffee with Karan episode featuring cricketers Hardik Pandya and KL Rahul.
  • Amazon Prime had also removed an episode of Madam Secretary last year in India. The episode reportedly had references to Hindu nationalism.
  • Netflix had pulled down an episode of Hasan Minhaj’s Patriot Act in Saudi Arabia, and in defence had said, “We’re not in the news business, we’re not doing truth to power, we’re trying to entertain.”

This comes after the Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) released a new content code to govern content on online streaming platforms that will lead to the setting up of an industry self-regulatory body called the Digital Content Complaints Council (DCCC). While this is the second iteration of IAMAI’s content code, not all signatories to the first code have signed up for it, chief among them being Netflix and ALTBalaji. The new code, only has 5 signatories — Hotstar, Jio, SonyLIV, VOOT and Eros. The new code has also broadened the ambit of prohibited content compared to the previous code.

Read More: Streaming players ask IAMAI to recall streaming content code, question legitimacy; IAMAI responds

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