Tablighi Jamaat Case: Govt Washes Hands of Hate Campaign by Media

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The Tablighi Jamaat headquarters at Nizamuddin in New Delhi.

A petition has been filed by Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind and others, accusing the media of vilifying the Tablighi Jamaat, and terming the media coverage as irresponsible.

Clarion India

NEW DELHI — The government on Friday told the Supreme Court that it could not put a check on how media covered the story of Tablighi Jamaat and coronavirus.

The government made the remarks in the affidavit it filed in the case that seeks to hold media accountable for running a vilification campaign against Tablighi Jamaat earlier this year after it emerged that their Nizamuddin Markaz was one of the coronavirus hotspots infecting members who were stuck there in the initial days of lockdown.

The government lawyer cited the idea of freedom to back its argument while appealing the apex court to transfer the matter to News Broadcasting Standards Authority (NBSA), an independent body of broadcaster that looks into the complaints against news channels. The NBSA also filed an affidavit that said the petitioners should have approached it before moving to court.

The petition has been filed by Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind and others. Jamiat had accused the media of vilifying the Tablighi Jamaat, an organisation of Muslim preachers. The petition termed the media coverage as irresponsible. The media was portraying it as if Muslims were deliberately spreading coronavirus.

Petitioners’ lawyer Dushyant Dave said the law showed that legal action should be proceeded with in case a news item caused hurt to the sentiments or image of the religious group.

The Supreme Court said the case would proceed after NBSA and Press Counsil of India (PCI) file their report on the matter. It was revealed that NBSA had received 100 complaints while 50 complaints have been filed with PCI. Dave accused NBSA and PCI of lazy approach to the complaints.

The next hearing of the case will be held after two weeks.

In the previous hearing, SC had asked the Centre to ensure that nobody was allowed to incite people or disturb law and order. It had given two weeks to the government and PCI to reply what action was taken.

The court has asked a detailed response on the complaints of news violation of rules of cable operations.

The coverage of Tablighi Jamaat had triggered a wave of hate crimes against Muslims in India in April who were targeted and beaten by mobs on streets. There were also cases of discrimination and boycott against Muslims amid an unprecedented countrywide lockdown enforced by the government to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

Since then there have been numerous instances of gathering and crowding of people leading to rapid spread of the coronavirus but those have not been subjected to media scrutiny. India is at the third position, after US and Brazil, in the number of coronavirus cases which crossed the 2-million mark on Thursday depicting a policy failure to flatten the curve.

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