The National Broadcasting and Digital Standards Authority (NBDSA) has directed Times Now to remove two of its debates that were conducted on the subject of the 2020 Delhi Riots.
The news regulator has found that the debates in question "were designed to promote one side of a controversial issue."
Communal clashes had taken over northeast Delhi in February last year. Fifty-three people had been reported dead, hundreds were injured, and property worth crores was destroyed in the violence.
The NBDSA, which had, on 19 November, issued its response to the complaints filed against the contentious debates on Times Now, stated that the programmes in question have not been conducted in an "impartial and objective manner."
What Did the Complaints Against Times Now Say?
Utkarsh Mishra, who had lodged the complaints against the news channel, asserted that the debates in question had violated multiple guidelines of the Code of Ethics and Broadcasting Standards (Code of Ethics) as well as the Specific Guidelines for Reporting Court Proceedings.
Debate on Delhi Riots Investigation 'Projected a Particular Community Negatively'
The first complaint was filed against Rahul Shivshankar, the anchor of the Times Now prime-time show India Upfront, over a 14 September 2020 episode titled, 'Shocking Secret admission out in Umar’s arrest, Does left lobby know the truth Delhi riots key witness intimidated, threat linked to kingpin?'
"[I]nstead of reporting judicial observations that could offer a degree of clarity to a highly divisive communal matter, the broadcaster chose to report the unverified allegations of the Delhi Police under the UAPA, to target and project a particular community in a negative light," the complainant alleged, as per the NBDSA.
Debate on Anti-CAA Protests 'Vilified the Protesters'
The second complaint was filed against Padmaja Joshi, the anchor of the Times Now prime-time show India Upfront, in relation to the 23 September debate titled, 'The Newshour Agenda; EP444 - Delhi Riots: Plot To Kill Cops & Kaafirs Exposed; Peaceful Protest A Facade?'
"Their coverage generalized and distorted extremely complicated issues of state accountability, state arbitrariness, police violence, legal means of protest in a manner that entirely targeted and attempted to hinder participation in a democracy of those critical of the Delhi Police and the BJP," the complainant alleged.
The complainant asserted that this fact-less, assumption-based reporting was potent enough to alter the opinion of the masses in order to vilify the anti-CAA protestors.
The complaint further noted that the coverage was a "blatant attempt" to discredit any criticism of the police investigation of the riots, and that the anchor had colluded with the BJP spokesperson, who was part of the debate, for this purpose.
Times Now's Response
As per the NBDSA, Times Now, in its response to the complaint, stated that the grave and serious allegations were made by the complainant without any merit. It held the complaint as arising from a "very skewed and narrow perspective of the debate."
"The broadcaster vehemently denied that the anchors/ journalists or the channel named in the complaint under reply abused their authority or violated any guidelines for reporting court proceedings as well as communal disturbances by giving credence to unverified charges, as if they were facts and basing his opinions on them."
It further denied that the journalists had attempted to legitimise the narrative supporting the BJP and the Delhi police.
The NBDSA, in its 19 November order directing Times Now to take down the contended debates, said:
"NBDSA noted that while the broadcaster undoubtedly has the right to conduct a debate on any subject of its choice, however, the anchors of the impugned programmes did not conduct the debates in an impartial and objective manner and had therefore violated the Fundamental Principles as enumerated in the Code of Ethics and Broadcasting Standards and various Guidelines issued by NBDSA."
The NBDSA gave the broadcaster a period of seven days to remove the videos from its website, YouTube, and other platforms.
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