India’s largest streaming app, Hotstar, which is also India’s liaison for HBO originals, has withheld the release of the latest episode on Last Week Tonight with John Oliver. In the episode, which appeared on the show’s official YouTube channel on Monday afternoon and should have begun streaming on Hotstar by Tuesday at 6am, Oliver slams the honourable Prime Minister by referring to him as a ‘temporary symbol of hate’.
The episode also examines some of the Modi govt’s radical policies like demonetisation and CAA, any why the latter has inspired spontaneous nationwide protests.
There’s intense speculation over why Hotstar has not uploaded the episode on its streaming service even 30 hours after its scheduled release. Bloomberg Quint noted how the episode’s blocking could be a direct consequence of the less-than-favourable tone in which it talks about PM Modi, CAA protests ahead of Trump’s visit.
In the segment, Oliver says the following things: “While Modi may have charmed Bear Grylls, the world, and our current president, in India he is an increasingly controversial figure because his government has pursued a steadily escalating persecution of religious minorities” also going on to add that “the only glimmer of hope here is that for perhaps the first time in Modi’s whole career, his actions are creating a massive and sustained backlash.”
This is not first time a streaming service has been accused of bowing down to political pressure – Amazon has regularly censored controversial content regarding cows, beef, it even removed an episode of CBS’ Madam Secretary for mentioning Hindu nationalism playing a role in India-occupied Kashmir. Even Netflix removed an episode of Hasan Minhaj’s Patriot Act, that was fiercely critical of Saudi Arabia and its crown prince.
After dropping on its official YouTube channel, the John Oliver segment has already got five million views in 48 hours. In spite of multiple requests for comments through several publications, Hotstar still hasn’t put out a statement to clarify the missing episode.