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Just Taking Down Zee News Videos Won't Undo Damage: Activist Who Filed Complaint

After Indrajeet Ghorpade's complaint, the NBDSA asked Zee News to take down three shows on farmers' protests.

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In a long-awaited move, the News Broadcasting and Digital Standards Authority (NBDSA) asked 'Zee News' to take down three of their shows from the internet for allegedly spreading hate speech and misinformation about the farmers' protests earlier this year.

The agency said that the channel violated the its Code of Ethics and Broadcasting Standards in three programmes – aired on 19, 20, and 26 of January 2021.

The move by the body came after having reviewed a complaint filed by engineer and activist Indrajeet Ghorpade against the channel.

The NBDSA is a private and voluntary association of Indian news television broadcasters.

In a conversation with The Quint, Ghorpade spoke about the motive behind filing the complaints and why he says he is dissatisfied with the action taken.

Why did you approach NBDSA?

I reached out to NBDSA because they refused to put out a clarification about all the fake news they had peddled about the farmers early this year. I filed a case related to three shows, two of these were primetime debates in which Zee news had shown videos from a tractor rally in Germany claiming that these were farmers from India waging a war against the country.

They were also trying to maliciously link them to Khalistani groups, claiming them as terrorists. In another incident, there was a live telecast, wherein at the Red fort, the Kisan Union flag was removed, but the Zee news anchor was saying that the farmers were removing the Indian flag and disrespecting the Indian flag.

Despite such major violations, the channel refused to take any action, which is why I approached the NBDSA.

What do you think deleting the problematic videos will do – or not do?

Ten months after these programs were telecast, the NBDSA has given out an order, in which it has simply asked the channel to take down the videos from the internet. I believe that this is not helpful at all, because the masses have already been exposed to this false, hateful information.

Just taking down the videos now from the internet which have been watched by lakhs of people does not undo the damage.

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Why is there a need to address the gap between what's been done and what should have been done?

The least that I was expecting was that NBDSA would ask Zee News to air a clarification, let the people know what the truth was and that they did mess up by airing false information, but that hasn't happened.

But unfortunately, this is a trend, it has happened in some other cases that I have filed, despite NBDSA acknowledging that there were violations. The penalty is not proportionate to the violations and the damage that has been caused.

Tell us a bit about yourself – what got you interested in tracking the content on TV channels?

I have a training in content moderation and policy enforcement and during the lockdown when I moved houses, I was exposed to TV news and to say that I was shocked to see some of the prime time shows would be an understatement.

It was mind blowing to see how much hate speech many channels were peddling against minority groups, against activists, against political prisoners. And this was happening day on day, which is why I found out the procedure to file a complaint against such reportage, and that's when I found out the process about NBDSA.

What are you hoping to change with your complaints?

My hope is just that news channels start telecasting facts and allow viewers to make their own decisions, instead of feeding them what they should believe and what they should think.

I believe that the news plays a very important role in ensuring that the country and the people are well informed, and in the absence of that when people are ill informed, is when you constantly feed them hate speech.

It leads to a complete deterioration of our society. People become more intolerant, people become more aggressive and more polarised. I don't want to see an India like that.

I want to see an India where people, are well-informed, people are tolerant towards each other, people speak truth, and make their judgments based on the facts of the matter.

Video Editor: Mohd Irshad Alam

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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