The News Broadcasting and Digital Standards Authority (NBDSA), through a series of orders, has held certain programmes aired by News18 India and Zee News to be in violation of the Code of Ethics and Broadcasting Standards and Specific Guidelines. The news channels have been directed to remove their videos from online platforms.
With respect to a News18 India news debate of January 18, 2022, the NBDSA observed that the thrust of the programme had religious undertones. “By starting the debate on the premise that 20% people were ganging up against Hindus constituting 80%, the anchor had given the debate a thrust, which is communal in nature and not appropriate,” it said.
Imposing a fine of ₹50,000, the order said: “No doubt, even those elements belonging to minorities who give inflammatory speeches against the people of other religions/majority, have to be condemned. If the debate had been confined with such an objective in mind, probably there would have not been any problem with the same. However, utterances of few such individuals belonging to a particular community should not lead to communal divide.”
As regards a “Desh Nahi Jhukne Denge with Aman Chopra live” show related to the Praveen Nettaru murder case, the NBDSA noted that “during the debate the anchor instead of blaming a few miscreants for the murders and violence in fact blamed the religion for the violence that occurred”.
Another programme pertaining to alleged police violence during the occasion of Garba was broadcast on October 4, 2022. Stating that the broadcaster failed to condemn police violence, the authority imposed a fine of ₹25,000.
A separate order pertained to a News18 India report dated September 29, 2022, about Muslim men being physically assaulted allegedly by Bajrang Dal members at Garba events. The NBDSA said while the broadcaster had merely reported the said incidents as transpired in Ahmedabad, Indore and Akola, the language used in the tickers gave a “communal tilt to the broadcast”.
A complaint was also lodged against the August 5, 2022, “Desh Nahi Jhukne Denge” debate titled “Ghazwa-e-Hind”. The authority observed that the broadcast attempted to communalise the issue in respect of demographic changes around the border areas of the country due to infiltration. In this matter also, it imposed a fine of ₹20,000.
In its order on a complaint against a Zee News programme dated July 12, 20022, which was related to Uttar Pradesh-Population Control Bill, the NBDSA said it was permissible to conduct a debate on the issue of population explosion, but the broadcast apparently “lacked objectivity and neutrality as it disproportionately focused only on one religion/community as being solely responsible for the population growth”.
The NBDSA, in the case of a Times Now broadcast dated September 23, 2022, about a protest by the since banned Popular Front of India supporters in Pune, cautioned the broadcaster to be more careful in future while reporting such stories.