'Embarrassment Could've Been Avoided if TV Outlets Had Been Mindful,' Says Editors Guild

In the aftermath of Nupur Sharma's remarks on TV triggering violence and a diplomatic backlash, the Guild has asked channels to pause and take a critical look at the deliberate creation of circumstances that target vulnerable communities.

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New Delhi: The Editors Guild of India has released a statement registering sharp criticism of news channels “deliberately creating circumstances that target vulnerable communities” with the use of hate speech.

“The Editors Guild of India is disturbed by the irresponsible conduct of some national news channels for deliberately creating circumstances that target vulnerable communities by spewing hatred towards them and their beliefs,” says the statement, signed by president Seema Mustafa, general secretary Sanjay Kapoor and treasurer Anant Nath.

Without naming names, the statement referred to the news channel argument in which now suspended BJP spokesperson Nupur Sharma made comments against Prophet Mohammed. The statement recorded the fallout from the airing of this debate.

“Expectedly, there was a riot in Kanpur accompanied by an unprecedented trenchant reaction from many countries that were offended by the remarks of the ruling party spokespersons. In their angry statements they wondered about India’s commitment to human rights and freedom of religion,” the Editors’ Guild said, referring to the unprecedented diplomatic backlash received by India.

Even before that, across the country, protests took place against Sharma’s comments. In Kanpur, a communal clash led to FIRs against 1,000 unknown persons, with all 55 initially named accused persons belonging the Muslim community. A day ago, a BJP leader was held among others, for fomenting violence with social media posts.

The statement pinned the responsibility at least partially on television outlets.

“The incident that caused unnecessary embarrassment to the country could have been avoided if some of the TV outlets had been mindful of the nation’s constitutional commitment to secularism, as well as the journalistic ethics and guidelines that the Press Council of India has issued to handle a volatile communal situation,” it noted.

The Guild also did not mince words to illustrate the ruthlessness that the television channels appeared keen to exercise while propagating a daily agenda.

“…[S]ome of these channels prompted by the desire to increase viewership and profit were seemingly inspired by the values of Radio Rwanda whose incendiary broadcast caused a genocide in the African nation,” it noted.

Asking for “stricter vigilance” from broadcaster and journalist bodies, the Guild propagated the demand “that these channels pause and take a critical look at what they have done by giving legitimacy to divisive and toxic voices that has made the national discourse coarse and the gap between communities unbridgeable.”

It ends with the assertion, “The media is in place to strengthen the Constitution and the law and not break it through sheer irresponsibility and absence of accountability.”