Television Channels Castigated for Communal Shows

By Joseph Maliakan

In a welcome move , long overdue the News Broadcasting and Digital Standards Authority ( NBDSA )  has castigated three leading channels, the Times Now, Zee News and News 18 for airing blatantly communal shows.

Times Now and Zee News have been indicted for their coverage of protests by the now banned Muslim organisation the Popular Front of India and the increase in India’s population. Times Now had falsely claimed that ” Pakistan Zindabad ” slogans were raised at a demonstration held by the Popular Front in Pune, Maharashtra on 24 September 2022.

Times Now had in its defence said it had relied on reports by news agencies ANI and PTI  and freelance reporters for the show. However , the Broadcasting Authority was not convinced and pointed out that Times Now while airing the show had boasted that it was the first channel to report on the matter and ran tickers such as ” News Break Here First ‘Pakistan Zindabad’ slogans at PFI stir ” and ” Pak slogans by PFI  workers “.

The Authority Headed by Justice ( Rtd )  A.K Sikri directed Times Now to remove the video of the broadcast and all hyperlinks to it.

The Broadcasting  Authority on another petition held Zee News guilty for targetting Muslim community  on 12 July 2022 , in a debate on increase in the population of the country and selectively broadcasting statistics giving the debate a communal colour. The show lacked objectivity as it focussed on  one religious group, the Muslims , being solely responsible for population growth , the Authority said. It directed the channel to publicize that it’s show violated the Code of Ethics and Broadcasting Standards.

The Broadcasting regulator warned Zee News not to air such reports in future.

The Boardcasting Authority also fined Hindi news channel News 18 for making objectionable statements on Muslims in four shows hosted by news anchor Aman Chopra. The topics of the shows ranged from glorifying public flogging of Muslims to giving totally false data to show phenomenal increase in the population of Muslims.

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In the case of Times Now the Authority in its order noted that several fact checking websites had fact checked the the news report in question and had found the slogan raised  at the PFI demonstration  was not ‘ Pakistan Zindabad ‘  but ‘ PFI Zindabad’ !

In the first case of News 18 the Broadcasting Authority found that a debate hosted by Aman Chopra on 18 January 2022 had religious biases.” By starting the debate on the premise that 20 % of the people were ganging up against Hindus constituting 80% the anchor had given the debate a thrust , which is communal in nature and not appropriate, ” the order said.

The programme , NBDSA chairman Justice A.K. Sikri said, had violated the fundamental principles of impartiality, objectivity and neutrality that are necessary in reporting. In  the complaint, Anjuu Dubey submitted that Chopra deliberately made statements that maligned the Muslim community.

” The entire premise of the of the show revolved around creating a negative image of the Muslim community to instigate the members of the Hindu community to develop hatred for Muslims, ” he said. Throughout the show the anchor indulged in racial and religious stereotyping towards the Muslims .No caution of whatever nature or restrain was exercised by the anchor or the channel while airing the show in question it was pointed out.

Justice Sikri in his order of 27 February  also imposed a fine of Rs.50000 on the broadcaster and directed it to remove the videos of the show from its website and You Tube. The Authority further directed News 18 to state on its ticker once every hour between 8 am on 6 March and 8 am on 7 March , that they  had violated broadcasting guidelines.

The second case related to another debate also moderated by Aman Chopra on 4 October 2022 of the brutal public flogging of Muslim men in the Kheda district of Gujarat. On  of 3rd October night in Undhela village of Kheda a group of Muslim men allegedly threw stones at a garba site near a mosque. The following day five  Muslim men accused in the incident were dragged out in public , tied to an electric pole and beaten with sticks by the police as a crowd loudly cheered.

Indrajeet Ghorpade , the complainant in this case submitted before NBDSA that News 18 India celebrated the flogging of the Muslim men by the Gujarat police by describing it as ” police ki dandiya ” , a reference  to a traditional Gujarati dance in which sticks are used as a prop.the complaint further stated that News 18 had repeatedly showed the visuals glorifying and praising the illegal and inhuman police action of flogging.

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The channel also wrongly declared the Muslim men tied and flogged by the police as guilty of stone throwing thecomplaint said. By connecting stone pelting with jjihad and by making negative generalised statements about young Muslim men and accusing them of engaging in various crimes the channel had tarnished the image of the Muslim community , the complaint added.

Though News 18 denied the charges Justice Sikri said in his order that the channel had “targetted  , vilified and castigated the entire Muslim community for the actions of a few miscreants”. Sikri also objected to the use of phrases such as ” garba me love jihad ” and ” what is your role in my girba ” , in the ticker.

The Authority also imposed a fine of Rs.25000, on the channel  in this case and directed it to avoid giving a ” communal colour ” while reporting such cases.It also directed the channel to remove the vedios of the show to be removed from the channel’s website and You Tube.

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The third order was against a show hosted on 28 July 2022 by Aman Chopra on the murder of Baratiya Janata Party youth wingleader Praveen Nettaru in Bellare village of Dakshina Kannada district in Karnataka. The complaint said that between 19 to 28 July 2022 there were three ” communally motivated ” murders in Dakshina Kannada but Choprachose to highlight only Nettaru’s case . The two other victims were Muslims.

” The broadcaster had violated the Code of Ethics and Broadcasting Standards relating to neutrality impartiality and Clause 19 of the specific guidelines covering reportage pertaining to Racial and Religious Harmony “, Justice Sikri observed.

The fourth case is about a debate titled ” Ghazwa-e-Hind” aired on 5 August 2022. It was about reports by the police to the Home Ministry on the ” sharp rise in the Muslim population in Uttar Pradesh and in districts bordering Bangladesh and Nepal.

The programme used the hashtag ” Border Par PanIslam” and showed Muslims in busy neighbourhoods. ” In an effort to support the Citizen’s Amendment Act ( CAA ) and National Register of Citizens ( NRC ) rhetorical attempts were made to show Muslims in bad light and breedhatredtowardsthem” , the complaint said.

The Authority in its order said that the news channel did communalise the issue by giving the impression that the Muslims were intruders and were trying to change the demography of the country by supporting illegal infiltrators. It imposed a fine of Rs. 20000 on the broadcaster and directed Chopra not to make communal statements while covering issues of national importance.