Mumbai: The News Broadcasting & Digital Standards Authority (NBDSA), in four separate orders, has cautioned leading news channels and their anchors against giving a communal tilt to discussions on the channel.
The orders – passed against Times Now Navbharat channel and Aaj Tak – have directed the broadcasters to remove videos from the website of the channel and the corresponding content from YouTube.
In the case of Times Now Navbharat channel, the NBDSA headed by former Supreme Court judge Justice A.K. Sikri held that the broadcaster had violated the guidelines to prevent communal colour in reporting crime, riots, rumours and such related incidents and the Specific Guidelines Covering Reportage relating to racial and religious harmony.
All four complaints were filed by Citizens for Justice and Peace, a Human Rights movement dedicated to upholding and defending the freedom and constitutional rights of all Indians. An additional complainant Matin Mujawar too had moved the NBDSA.
According to the complaints, Times Now Navbharat, on September 29, 2022, broadcast a story about a Muslim man being physically assaulted by Bajrang Dal members at a garba event. The channel claimed that the episode was focused on women’s safety at public events by highlighting incidents where inappropriate photographs of women were taken by miscreants at a garba event.
The complainant had alleged that these stories were communally charged and were spreading hatred, with a clear agenda to cause harm to minorities. The channel, calling the complaint ‘baseless and out of context’, said that the stories only raised valid questions about women’s safety at such public events. The NBDSA, however, rejected the broadcaster’s claims.
The NBDSA observed in its order that the broadcaster had generalised the alleged incidents “thereby giving a certain tilt to the programme by creating an impression that only men from a certain community were miscreants and/or criminals who were trying to harm/deceive women of another community in the garba festival.”
Another complaint was against the channel’s show based on Uttarakhand high court’s order on the use of paramilitary forces to evict 4,000 families living on what the railway claimed was its land. While presenting this order on Times Now Navbharat, the anchor, had called the act of contested encroachment as “zameen jihad”. This is not the first time the term “jihad” was suffixed to an issue pertaining to the minority Muslim community.
Especially, during and after the COVID- 19 pandemic, there has been an increased usage of the term, clearly done with the singular motive to flare communal tension. The complainant had pointed out that using the term denigrated and demeaned the community and that it goaded the viewers into accepting a prejudicial and anti- Muslim narrative. The broadcaster, once again, denied the charges.
The NBDSA noted that there would not have been a problem had the broadcaster confined itself to the analysis of the court’s order. However, the impugned order rendered a “communal colour” to the issue.
In the case of Aaj Tak, the complainant had highlighted the story on allegedly illegal mazhars in Uttarakhand. The anchor, who had used terms like “hard jihad”, “soft jihad” and “land jihad” in the past, was now using the term “mazhar jihad” to describe the issue. The complainant raised four different objections to the content of the show, which he pointed out were communally charged and was presented with the intention to create an anti-Muslim atmosphere in the country. The channel had also set up a mock mazhar to illustrate the story.
The NBDSA noted that the channel should have avoided usage of the term as it “gave a totally different dimension to the otherwise valid issue raised by the broadcaster”.