Two Kannada news channels, News18 Kannada and Suvarna News, and one English news channel, Times Now, are now in the dock for their coverage ‘targeting’ members of Tablighi Jamaat, in 2020
On 16 June, the National Broadcasting Standards Authority (NBSA) issued orders penalising these channels for violating journalistic ethics and principles while covering news related to COVID-19 cluster in Nizamuddin Markaz, New Delhi, where a Tablighi Jamaat congregation had gathered.
The orders were issued based on complaints filed by the Campaign Against Hate Speech (CAHS) in 2020.
CAHS, which was formed in February 2020 to track hateful media coverage particularly targeting minority communities, had moved the NBSA against the channels for their “hateful coverage of the coronavirus pandemic in which they had targeted members of Tablighi Jamaat as well as the entire Muslim community”.
What Does the Order Say?
The NBSA has imposed a fine of Rs one lakh on News18 Kannada. The fine has to be paid to the News Broadcasters Association (NBA) within seven days of the receipt of the order for violating the, “code of ethics and broadcasting standards, principles of self regulation relating to impartiality and objectivity”. As per the order, “the programme lacked verification and was in violation of guideline No nine relating to racial and religious Harmony.”
The NBSA has also directed the channel to air an apology, which has to be presented both in text and in voice-over, on 23 June prior to the 9 PM news . It has issued a text of the apology which has to be translated to Kannada and aired.
Similarly, Suvarna News has been imposed with a fine of Rs 50,000 to be paid to the NBA within seven days of the receipt of the order for violating the “fundamental principles of impartiality, objectivity and neutrality in reporting as well as guideline No nine relating to racial and religious harmony.”
NBSA has also asked both the channels to remove video of the broadcasts, that target the Muslim community from the channel’s website, youtube and other links, immediately and inform the completion of such action in writing within seven days.
Meanwhile, the English news channel Times Now has been issued a censure “for telecasting…a programme on a sensitive issue which could create communal dissensions amongst communities” and the broadcaster has been advised to be “careful in choosing its panelists and try to avoid those persons to be panelists who are known in the public domain to have rabid and extreme views”.
The broadcaster has also been advised to brief its panelists about the code of ethics and guidelines “so that the panelists do not make provocative statements on the programmes”.
‘NBSA Orders Are Heartening’
“These orders by the NBSA are extremely heartening and can instil faith among the general public as well as campaigns such as ours that self-regulatory media mechanisms can function to hold media organisations accountable. These orders are in line with judgements and comments passed by various Indian courts which have held certain media organisations for communalising the pandemic by targeting minority communities,” read a release from CAHS.
The campaign, however, urged NBSA to “respond to matters having large-scale and harmful consequences for an entire community and the nation with immediacy and reduce the duration for such adjudications.”
The NBSA is set up to examine complaints submitted to the National Broadcasting Association, a self-regulation entity that private TV news channels have voluntarily associated themselves with.
“We call upon News18 Kannada, Suvarna News and Times Now to take note of these orders, comply with the directions issued and bring back moderation and objectivity into their reportage, shunning sensationalism that puts members of targetted communities at incredible risk and danger,” the release added.
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