Zee News Didn't Comply With NBSA Ruling in 'Afzal Premi Gang' Case: Gauhar Raza

After colouring the scientist and poet as 'anti-national', NBSA twice gave Zee News a chance to run an apology on its channel. Now that they haven't, says Raza, it's a clear message to the NBSA that they won't comply.

New Delhi: Despite the News Broadcasting Standards Authority (NBSA) twice rejecting review applications filed by Zee News against its order dated August 31, 2017, in which it had asked the channel to “regret the taglines used and views expressed” during the broadcast of the programme ‘Afzal Premi Gang ka Mushaira‘ which was telecast over four days in March 2016, the channel, according to Urdu poet and complainant in the case, Gauhar Raza, has not complied.

The channel had been directed to run the apology in Hindi and English in full text with a clearly audible voice-over at 9 pm on May 17.

Poet complained he was projected as an ‘anti-national’

It was on April 4, 2016, that a complaint was filed by scientist and poet Gauhar Raza against Zee News for telecasting the programme from March 9 to March 12, 2015, in which he claimed he was “projected as an anti-national”. There was also a joint complaint in the matter filed the same day by poet Ashok Vajpeyi, singer Shubha Mudgal, actor Sharmila Tagore and writer Syeda Hameed against Zee News.

Raza had then complained that the channel had “caused serious and severe harm to my reputation and has endangered the safety of my family and me”. In a letter to the channel, he had stated that the multiple telecast of the programme constituted “grave and repeated breach of the News Broadcasters Association’s code of ethics and broadcasting standards”.

He said the programme, based on the annual Shankar-Shad Mushaira that took place in New Delhi on March 5, was highly defamatory and repeatedly pronounced him an “anti-national”, based on a prejudiced and baseless conclusion. His recitations were also linked to the protests which were those days being witnessed at the Jawaharlal Nehru University.

Raza said while he was represented by Vrinda Grover at the hearing of NBSA, the channel had sent several lawyers led by Aman Lekhi.

The programme on which Zee News declared Gauhar Raza an “anti-national” and a member of the “Afzal Premi Gang”.

May 10 letter from NBSA to Zee official recalled rejection of two review appeals

A letter sent on May 10, 2018, by Annie Joseph on behalf of NBSA to Prasanna Raghav, the additional vice president of Zee Media Corporation Limited, recalled the sequence of events. It noted that in its order on August 31, 2017, the NBSA had “requested” the channel “air the regret/apology” at 9 pm on February 16, 2018, “to pay a fine of Rs 1 lakh, and to remove the video of the programme, if hosted, on the website of Zee News or any other links”.

However, the broadcaster had filed the first review application on September 8, 2017 against the order. The NBSA in its meeting on January 20, 2018 “decided to reject the said application for review as the matter had been finally decided after giving full opportunity to both the parties,” the letter stated.

The letter further pointed out “the broadcaster instead of complying” submitted a second review application dated February 15, 2018 and sought review/recall of the original order and the order on the first review application.

The NBSA letter said it “considered the review application” and “after deliberation decided that there was no ground to entertain a second review application”. It further noted that “the decisions are taken by NBSA as a “body’ and not on an individual basis”.

Poet accuses channel of buying time, not complying with NBSA ruling

Raza charged that while the first review appeal was rejected by the NBSA in February 2018, “since then Zee has been filing revisions despite there being no provision in NBSA’s rules and regulations for it. So they have been buying time. Before finally not complying with the order”.

Stating that by rejecting the second review application in March, the NBSA had made it clear that the channel would have to run the apology in Hindi and English text with audio voice-over at 9 pm on May 17, Raza said there was no ambiguity left in the matter. “I personally saw the channel at the designated hour but they did not run the apology. This time it is a clear message to NBSA that they won’t comply,” he claimed.

‘NBSA should move court against channel now’

Raza also questioned the applicability of the review appeal saying “in courts there is a provision for filing revision application but in NBSA, which is a quasi judicial body, there is no such provision. The NBSA can pass orders but it cannot take action.”

As such, he said, the NBSA should now move a court against the channel. “If some member is not complying, the NBSA should now go to the court. Now the dispute is between NBSA and Zee News.”

The issue of review applications, he said, had also placed the NBSA in a Catch 22 situation since there is no provision for such appeals. “They have to reply to such an application. What they should have said was that there is no provision for a revision application and therefore the application is deemed rejected from the date of filing. This is a procedural thing on which they have not elaborated on,” he said.