The regulatory body of NBA said the programmes of these channels ‘promoted and spread hatred which may have affected people’s lives’
NEW DELHI — The National Broadcasting Standards Authority (NBSA) on Wednesday directed three news channels – Times Now and two regional channels in Karnataka, News18 Kannada and Suvarna News – to pay fine of varying amounts over ‘inciting hatred’ against Tablighi Jamaat in the coverage of the Nizamuddin Markaz during first wave of coronavirus in early 2020.
News18 Kannada has been fined Rs 1,00,000 and asked to air an apology in both text and voice next week on June 23, at prime time (prior to 9 PM). Suvarna News has been directed to pay Rs 50,000 in fine.
The two regional channels have been asked to take down the ‘hateful’ content from their websites and social media channels within seven days.
NBSA issued the orders following complaints filed by the Campaign Against Hate Speech (CAHS) in 2020.
NBSA is the regulatory body of the News Broadcasters Association (NBA), a private association of different current affairs and news television broadcasters in India.
“The programmes were prejudicial, inflammatory, and crossed all boundaries of good taste and sensibility without any concern for the feelings of a religious group,” NBSA said in the order.
The order said that the content was based “on pure conjecture” and that “the tone, tenor and language was crass, prejudiced and disrespectful”.
NBSA said in its order that the programmes from these channels “promoted and spread hatred which may have affected people’s lives”.
For instance, according to the complaint by CAHS, the News 18 Kannada had aired a programme in April 2020 titled “Do you know how Delhi’s Nizamuddin Markaz has spread coronavirus to the nation” and “How many have gone to Delhi’s Jamaat congregation from Karnataka”.
Similarly, Times Nows held a show on April 2 which was brazenly titled “Is Tablighi Jamaat wilfully sabotaging India”.
Savarna Channel had faced complaints against seven programmes aired on Tablighi Jamaat’s Nizamuddin event.
The complaint had underlined that hate speech dehumanises entire communities and makes them targets of vigilante violence.
“The titles of the programmes have an insidious effect which would incite communal violence,” reads NBSA order while making observations on the continent of programmes from Suvarna News.
The authority refused to accept the arguments from broadcasters that they have right to free speech as the order said “right to free speech came with reasonable restrictions”.
The broadcasting watchdog slammed Times Now “for telecasting…a programme on a sensitive issue which could create communal dissensions amongst communities” and the broadcaster has been advised “to avoid those persons to be panellists who are known in the public domain to have rabid and extreme views”.
NBSA is mandated to issue fines against channels that violate the Code of Ethics and Broadcasting Standards, and Principles of Self -Regulation relating to impartiality and objectivity. It found the impugned programmes were also in violation of the Guidelines relating to Racial and Religious Harmony.
The complainant CAHS, established in 2020, tracks hate content against minority communities peddled in the media. The group has since then successfully held TV stations and publications accountable over violation of ethical, cultural and moral standards by approaching NBSA and Press Council of India.
“These orders by the NBSA are extremely heartening and can instill faith among the general public as well as campaigns such as ours that self-regulatory media mechanisms can function to hold media organizations accountable,” a statement by CAHS stated.