Digital censorship? JioCinema removes 2019 episode of 'Last Week Tonight' discussing PM Modi; Raises questions

Disney+ Hotstar, the streaming service that formerly owned the rights to HBO material in India, has not released the episode at all.

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Courtesy: X/Canva

A 2019 edition of Last Week Tonight with John Oliver was removed from the streaming site JioCinema, which is mostly controlled by the Reliance group, on Thursday. This was due to reports that the episode had been chosen not to air on Disney+ Hotstar, the show's former Indian streaming partner. Why JioCinema removed the episode is unknown.

Host John Oliver discusses the general elections to the Lok Sabha in 2019 as well as the demonstrations against the National Register of Citizens and the Citizenship (Amendment) Act that year. Mr. Oliver brought up old charges against Prime Minister Modi related to the Gujarat riots after the Special Investigation Team, established by the Supreme Court, exonerated him of any involvement.

Oliver's controversial statement

He also highlighted statements made by other prominent members of the BJP, including Yogi Adityanath, the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, and Amit Shah, the home minister and BJP president at the time, that he perceived as being anti-Islamic.

Trouble began from Disney Plus hoststar 

The episode was not aired at all on Disney+ Hotstar, which was streaming the show after a 24-hour delay (partially to remove any derogatory remarks about the Walt Disney Corporation and remove maps of Jammu and Kashmir that the Indian government contests). The primary section on Mr. Modi and the elections was made public on YouTube and is still accessible there.

Censorship on Indian OTT?

In a later episode, Mr. Oliver chastised Hotstar for banning both the episode and other episodes that parodied Disney characters. Hotstar never offered an explanation for its choice, but it mostly distributed the following episodes without blocking Disney characters. After Disney's India operations were merged with the Ambani-run conglomerate, Reliance is set to acquire the streaming service for ₹11,500 crore.