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News Broadcasting Authority Orders Times Now Navbharat, News 18 India, Aaj Tak to Take Down 3 TV Shows

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New Delhi: The News Broadcasting & Digital Standards Authority (NBDSA) has called for several television news programmes to be taken down and fine paid, for their role in spreading hatred and communal disharmony. The NBDSA is currently headed by a retired Supreme Court judge, Justice A.K. Sikri.

Times Now Navbharat has been fined Rs 1 lakh and News 18 India has been ordered to pay a fine of Rs 50,000 and a warning has been issued to Aaj Tak. All three channels have been ordered to take down the online versions of the programmes within seven days,

This follows complaints lodged against the communal and inflammatory shows by activist Indrajeet Ghorpade. Times Now Navbharat, a part of the mega Times group, has been penalised as anchor Himanshu Dixit was found to have targeted Muslims as a community and termed inter-faith relationships as “love jihad”.

News 18 India, now part of billionaire Mukesh Ambani’s group, was fined for as many as three shows, two of which were anchored by Aman Chopra, and one by Amish Devgan. These shows have been penalised as they were found to have communalised the Shraddha Walker murder case as one of so-called “love jihad.”

Aaj Tak, of the India Today group, was warned for its show anchored by Sudhir Chaudhary, which generalised acts of violence during Ram Navami as one of targeting a particular community.

The complainant had cited violations of the Code of Ethics & Broadcasting Standards, regarding impartiality, objectivity, neutrality, and accuracy. The NBDSA also cited breaches of guidelines related to hate speech prevention and avoiding communal narratives in reporting incidents.

On the Times Navbharat programme on “love jihad”, the NBDSA observed, “on a perusal of the impugned broadcast, it appears that at the very beginning of the broadcast, the anchor has concluded that men from a certain community lured women from another community by hiding their religious identity and then committed violence or murders against such women and every such violence or murder committed on women of a certain community related to love jihad’.”

“This is evident from the questions raised and statements made by the anchor during the impugned broadcast. When some of the panellists expressed their concerns regarding the communal angle being given to such alleged incidents and regarding selective cases of violence against women where the perpetrator belonged to a particular community, the anchor shouted them down and did not allow them to express their views,” NBDSA ruled.

The NBDSA order stated, speaking of instances of inter-faith relationships, “some such instances should not lead to making generalized statements regarding inter-faith marriages by giving it a communal colour. Every citizen, from whichever religion, has a right to marry a person of his/her choice, irrespective of the religion to which he/she belongs.”

“Merely because a Hindu girl married a boy of another faith would not tantamount to love jihad unless it is established that such a Hindu girl was duped or coerced into the marriage. Further, because of few incidents of such forced marriages, an entire community cannot be branded. Thus, it was not proper to generalize the incidents with the tickers such as “Love तो बहाना है … Hindu बेटियाँ निशाना हैं” Jihadiyon se Beti Bachao” it added.

NBDSA stated that the term “love jihad” should be used “with serious introspection in future broadcasts as religious stereotyping can corrode the secular fabric of the nation”,

On February 4, 2020, the Ministry of Home Affairs said in a written response to Parliament, when asked about so-called “love jihad” that “the term ‘Love Jihad’ is not defined under the extant laws. No such case of ‘Love Jihad’ has been reported by any of the central agencies.” It also said that “Article 25 of the Constitution provides for the freedom to profess, practice and propagate religion subject to public order, morality and health. Various courts have upheld this view including the Kerala High Court.” The ministry did add that “two cases from Kerala involving inter-faith marriages have been investigated by the National Investigation Agency (NIA).”

Indian TV news channels being filled with hate has been a matter of concern for some years now. The Supreme Court, while hearing a matter on the prevalence of hate in Indian media in 2022, cited the audience as a reason. “Hate drives TRPs, drives profit,” one judge said.

“It is the genaralisation of these incidents by targeting the entire community, which is found to be violative of the principles of Impartiality, Objectivity and Neutrality under the Code of Ethics & Broadcasting Standards (“Code of Ethics”) and the Specific Guidelines covering Reportage relating to Racial and Religious Harmony. In the impugned broadcast, the anchor had also violated Clauses (f) and (h) of the Specific Guidelines for Anchors conducting Programmes including Debates,” the NBDSA order stated.

Last year, on March 2, 2023, the NBDSA had ordered three TV news channels to remove their programmes. Two of them were repeat offenders, News18 India and Times Now, apart from Zee TV. They were asked to remove as many as seven programmes broadcast by them from their online platforms and YouTube because these were in violation of the Code of Ethics and Broadcasting Standards.

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The News Broadcasters & Digital Association (NBDA) [formerly known as News Broadcasters Association (NBA)] is an industry body, not an arm of the government. This represents the private television news, current affairs and digital broadcasters. It describes itself as “the collective voice of the news, current affairs and digital broadcasters in India. It is an organization funded entirely by its members” on its website.

source by: The Wire News

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