India election chiefs ban web series on PM Narendra Modi

Officials are clamping down on illegal campaiging during India's 5 1/2-week election. A Bollywood movie was pulled, a TV channel censored, and now a web series on the Indian leader's life has also been banned.

The Election Commission of India on Saturday ordered producers to stop streaming a web series about Prime Minister Narendra Modi amid concerns it could give him an unfair advantage in the country's general election.

Technology | 29.03.2018

The decision follows a similar clamp down on a TV channel devoted to the right-wing premier, and the banning of a flattering Bollywood film.

India's mammoth six-week polls — the world's biggest democratic exercise — began on April 11 and will run until May 19. A ban on campaigning is in effect during the 5-1/2-week vote.

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The five-part series "Modi: Journey of a Common Man," which was available on the video-on-demand platform Eros Now, traces the Hindu nationalist's journey from the son of a tea-seller to the role of prime minister.

The latest ban comes after producers of a Bollywood biopic about Modi, played by Bollywood actor Vivek Oberoi, were ordered to delay the film's release. It will now be shown after the polls.

The main opposition Congress Party slammed the film's release as propaganda, despite Modi's ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) insisting it had nothing to do with its creation.

Meanwhile, NaMo TV, a 24-hour channel, sponsored by the BJP, showing Modi rallies and speeches has also been ordered to get its content approved by the watchdog before broadcast.

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The election watchdog intervened to restrict the media content after being flooded with complaints since campaigning began last month.

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Under India's election rules, content deemed as helping a party's election campaign is not allowed during the "silent" voting phase.

The 68-year-old Modi, who stormed to power in 2014 is facing a tough reelection. Although he has achieved some of his election promises — boosting infrastructure and helping the country's poor, economic growth has stalled and unemployment is at a 45-year high.

The election commission, which is often accused of lacking teeth,  was ordered by the Supreme Court last week to act tough on complaints of poll violations by political leaders.

Any political advertising must be approved by the election authorities so that all spending can be accounted for.  

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