The Information & Broadcasting Ministry (I&B) on Saturday issued a stern advisory to all the private satellite TV channels to desist from making false claims about the Russia–Ukraine conflict and using provocative headlines and videos of violence that may incite communal hatred.
Union I&B Minister Anurag Singh Thakur told media persons that the channels that indulged in such coverage had been given notice and also told by the Ministry not to repeat such mistakes.
The Ministry said the TV channels should adhere to Section 20 of The Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act including the Programme Code laid down thereunder.
The provision empowers the Centre to regulate/prohibit the transmission or retransmission of any channel or programme, if it considers necessary in the interest of sovereignty, security and integrity; friendly relations with any foreign State or public order, decency or morality.
“It has, however, been found that in the recent past several satellite TV channels have carried out coverage of events and incidents in a manner which appears to be unauthentic, misleading, sensational and using socially unacceptable language and remarks, offending good taste and decency, and obscene and defamatory and having communal overtones...,” said the advisory, referring to the coverage of the Russia–Ukraine conflict and the recent Jehangirpuri violence in north-west Delhi, besides certain news debates.
With regard to the conflict, the Ministry said completely unrelated “scandalous headlines or taglines” were used and many journalists and news anchors of those channels made fabricated and hyperbolic statements intending to incite the audience.
According to the advisory, the coverage of the recent incident in north-west Delhi by several TV channels had provocative headlines and videos of violence that might incite communal hatred and disrupt peace and law and order. Scandalous and unverified closed–circuit television camera footage was played, which could disrupt the ongoing probe.
Footage of a specific community, aggravating communal tension, was shown and fabricated headlines — sensationalising and giving communal colours to the actions of authority — were used.
Some channels broadcast debates having unparliamentary, provocative and socially unacceptable language, communal remarks and derogatory references which might have a negative psychological impact on viewers and might also incite communal disharmony and disturb the peace at large.
“Some are also found to be disrespectful, passing on insulting remarks or giving reference to the different religions or faiths or their founders,” said the advisory.
Listing 10 instances related to the Russia–Ukraine conflict, the Ministry said one channel aired a news item “Ukraine mein atomi hadkamp”, mentioning that Russia was planning a nuclear attack on Ukraine. Another channel made baseless speculation claiming that Russia had given a 24–hour deadline for the nuclear attack, while one aired unverified claims misquoting foreign actors/agencies about “official Russian media clearly states that 3rd world war has started”.
“Another channel misreported and made unverified claims on April 19, one such claim was — ‘U.S. agency CIA believes that Russia will use nuclear weapons on Ukraine’...,” it said, adding that a journalist while reporting from Mykolaiv also made several non–factual comments, insinuating that there could be a nuclear attack.
On the impugned coverage about the Jehangirpuri incident, the Ministry listed six instances. “A channel repeatedly carried a video clipping of a man belonging to a specific community carrying a sword. Channels claim that this video depicts that it was pre–planned to spread violence in a religious procession...,” said the advisory.
In connection with the TV debates, the advisory said during one programme named ‘Hunkar’, several speakers used unparliamentary and derogatory language towards one another. “...the overall tenor and tonality of the show remains very aggressive and disturbing. Such ambience has a tendency to negatively impact the viewers especially children and may have a long–lasting psychological distress and subliminal impact on them,” it said.
About another debate on “Loudspeaker rules”, derogatory terms were used and some communal comments made.