News Content, TV Debate "Highly Toxic, Polarised, Filled With Innuendos": SC Told

Kota Neelima and Sangeeta Tyagi have filed the petition on hate speech in the apex court.

New Delhi: A fresh plea was filed on Tuesday in the Supreme Court by two petitioners related to the Congress party regarding news coverage and TV debate in recent times, saying it has been “highly toxic, polarised and filled with innuendos”.

Kota Neelima, wife of Congress party spokesperson Pawan Khera and Sangeeta Tyagi, widow of Rajiv Tyagi, who was the party’s spokesperson, have filed the petition on hate speech in the apex court.

In the plea, they sought the top court’s nod to place on records the study report on media trials done by Rate the Debate, a research platform, on the content of news discussion and debates undertaken by two renowned TV journalists.

They said certain TV anchors have consistently created a false narrative through ‘media trial’, influencing public opinion towards their covert objective.

The plea said media trial is also a part of hate speech.

Sangeeta Tyagi, whose husband died recently of a heart attack after participating in a TV debate, and Neelima had moved the Supreme Court for intervention in the Sudarshan TV case and had sought that certain news anchors and “peddlers of hate speech” should not be given the benefit of freedom of speech.

The fresh plea, filed through lawyer Sunil Fernandes, which is based on detailed analysis of prime time programmes of two English news channels, alleged that most of the shows were on a singular topic Sushant Singh Rajput’s death case.

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The statistic does not reveal the complete picture. Not only an overwhelming and inordinate amount of time is devoted to a single topic, but the manner, tone, tenor and content of the news coverage and TV debate was highly toxic, polarised and filled with innuendos, salacious gossips, wild allegations and character assassinations, the plea said.

Media Trials is another facet of hate speech. Media trials can take place for a variety of reasons, for instance, it can be in order to grab a higher share of television rating points (TRPs) or it can be something more sinister whereby certain private television channels act as proxy propaganda machines for the central government.

“These channels have a specific methodology to report the Rajput case”, it said adding firstly, they deliberately create a hypothesis or a false construct/premise, for example, Sushant Singh Rajput was “murdered” and “did not commit suicide”.

They will then insinuate that a top politician or a powerful personality is behind the “cover-up”, it said, adding that these programmes would convince the viewer of the hypothesis even before the prosecuting agency has completed its investigation and filed its chargesheet.

The Sudarshan TV case relates to seeking a ban on the telecast of ‘Bindas Bol’ programme which alleges infiltration of Muslims into the country’s bureaucracy, and the apex court has already imposed the pre-telecast ban on episodes of ‘UPSC Jihad’ show on the main plea that raised grievances against it on grounds including hate speech.

Now the Centre has issued a show-cause notice to the channel based on the recommendation of an inter-ministerial group.

Sangeeta Tyagi and Kota Neelima had earlier referred to the prime time TV shows of four prominent anchors in their intervention plea alleging that their programmes are mostly communal in nature and favour the ruling party.

Seeking urgent hearing on their plea, they had compared the situation of the electronic media in the country with Nazi Germany.