New Delhi: The self-regulatory body for television channels on Monday, February 27, fined News18 India Rs 50,000 and Rs 25,000 for two separate broadcasts of anchor Aman Chopra’s programme. The first programme dealt with Yogi Adityanath’s “80 vs 20” statement, while the second was on the public flogging of Muslim men in Gujarat’s Kheda district.
The News Broadcasting & Digital Standards Authority (NBDSA), which is the self-regulatory body for all members of the News Broadcasters & Digital Association, passed the orders on February 27 based on complaints filed by Citizens for Justice and Peace and two individuals.
In the first case, NBDSA said that Chopra crossed the “threshold of impartiality” in the first by making communally polarising statements. On the Kheda flogging, the body observed that the anchor condemned the entire Muslim community for the actions of a few miscreants who were accused of pelting stones at a garba event. “The manner in which the debate was conducted was condemnable and the statements made by the anchor had the tendency to disturb the communal harmony in the country,” it said.
It is rare for the NBDSA to fine news channels for violating the Code of Ethics and Broadcasting Standards as it usually closes complaints by censuring them. In these two orders, News18 India was censured and fined.
The self-regulatory body had recently issued guidelines to prevent hate speech to its members, which directed editors, editorial personnel, anchors, journalists and presenters to refrain from using “language and agenda-driven words”, “terms and adjectives” and “all forms of expression” which can advocate violence or engender hatred against individuals or communities. The guidelines were issued after the Supreme Court asked NBDSA why offending anchors could not be taken off the air.
Incidentally, the NBDSA had in October 2022 fined News18 India Rs 50,000 for another programme anchored by Aman Chopra for giving a platform to “extreme views” during a discussion on the hijab ban in Karnataka.
‘Violated fundamental principles’
The first order dealt with the ‘Desh Nahi Jhukne Denge’ programme broadcast on January 18, 2022 titled ‘हिन्दुओं के ह़िलाफ़ महागठबंधन?’ [An anti-Hindu grand alliance?]. It was aired a few days after Yogi Adityanath, in the run up to the Uttar Pradesh assembly election, said that the polls were “80 vs 20”, which was interpreted as pitting the majority community against the minority.
The NBDSA said that by starting the debate on the premise that “20% 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 show was “flagged off” by the anchor with a communally polarising question, it said. “Hinduon ke khilaf Uttar Pradesh me Mahagathbandhan tayyar ho raha hai, aur jab 80 vs. 20 ki baat ki thi Yogi Adityanath ne toh wo sahi thi? (An anti-Hindu alliance is getting prepared in Uttar Pradesh. So when Yogi Adityanath speaks about 80 vs 20, was that correct?).” During the programme, the anchor “crossed the threshold of impartiality by making certain statements” like “Ye 80 k khilaf hai mahagathbandhan” and “Wo keh ray … unhey Hinduo sey problem hai aur wo 80 kay khilaaf hai”.
The anchor violated the “fundamental principles of Impartiality, Objectivity and Neutrality in reporting”, the body said.
“In view of the above violations, NBDSA decided to issue a warning to the broadcaster to be more careful in future, decided to impose a fine of Rs. 50,000,” it said. The channel was also directed to air a ticker once every hour for 24 hours, starting from 8 am on March 6, which says that the NBDSA found the said programme to be in violation of the Code of Ethics & Broadcasting Standards relating to Impartiality, Objectivity and Neutrality and Specific Guidelines Covering Reportage relating to Racial & Religious Harmony.
NBDSA also directed the broadcaster to remove the video of the said broadcast, if still available on the website of the channel or YouTube, and remove all hyperlinks to it.
‘Tendency to disturb communal harmony’
The second order was also about the ‘Desh Nahi Jhukne Denge’ programme, regarding the broadcast aired on October 4, 2022 about the flogging of some Muslim men in Kheda district of Gujarat for allegedly pelting stones at a garba event.
NBDSA observed that the impugned programme was “interspersed with statements made by the anchor” which “targeted, vilified and castigated the entire Muslim community for the actions of a few miscreants”. NBDSA held that by condemning the entire Muslim community for the actions of a few miscreants, it was the anchor who had given the alleged incident a communal tilt.
“The manner in which the debate was conducted was condemnable and the statements made by the anchor had the tendency to disturb the communal harmony in the country… Further, the tickers which were aired during the impugned broadcast, raised rhetorical questions, thereby reinforcing the narrative created by the broadcaster and gave the impression that all Muslim men attended garba celebrations only with ulterior motives,” it said.
The broadcaster also failed to condemn police violence and in fact kept looping the video of the police beating the men, the body said. “The thrust of the broadcast appeared to give the impression that the actions of the police were justified,” it observed.
For these violations, NBDSA warned the broadcaster not to repeat the violations in future and imposed a fine of Rs 25,000. It was also directed to remove the video of the said broadcast, if still available on the website of the channel, or YouTube, and remove all hyperlinks to it.