Why has news media regulator fined Times Now Navbharat and News18 India and warned Aaj Tak against religious … – The Leaflet

The News Broadcasting & Digital Standards Authority under the chairmanship of Justice A.K Sikri found the three news channels had violated the Code of Ethics & Broadcasting Standards and the principles relating to impartiality, objectivity, neutrality and accuracy for inappropriate reporting.

THE News Broadcasting & Digital Standards Authority (NBDSA) has fined news agency Times Now Navbharat and News18 India for violating the Code of Ethics and Broadcasting Standards and the principles relating to impartiality, objectivity, neutrality and accuracy and the guidelines of the Bombay High Court in Nilesh Navalakha versus Union of India & Ors (2021).
In Nilesh Navalakha, the court laid down guidelines stating that the media should not report on ongoing proceedings in a manner that could cause prejudice to the accused person’s rights and lead to a media trial.
One Indrajeet Ghorpade filed a complaint against Times Now Navbharat, News 18 India and Aaj Tak for spreading hatred and communal disharmony and dehumanising a specific community.
The NBDSA is an independent body set up by the News Broadcasters & Digital Association. It was created to consider and adjudicate upon complaints about broadcasts. It is currently under the chairmanship of Justice A.K Sikri, a former judge of the Supreme Court of India.
Ghorpade filed a complaint against Times Now Navbharat alleging that they made generalised statements and allegations aimed at demonising and spreading hatred against the Muslim community.
Some of the headlines made by Times Now Navbharat are: “Love is just an excuse… Hindu daughters are at target. Daughters should be saved from jihadiyoun [referring to Muslim men]”, Desh mein Love Jihad ka Sach: Church ka dava, 10,000 isali ladkiya bani shikar” (sic throughout).
Ghorpade stated that the anchor of Times Now Navbharat incorrectly cited Shraddha Walker as an example of ‘love jihad’.
He explained that Walker’s partner Aftab Poonawala, who murdered her, did not hide his religion and caste. He did not change his name and there is no public information to suggest that he forced her to change her religion.
Ghorpade asserted that during a broadcast, the panellists made baseless claims and allegations against the Muslim community.
He referred to one panellist, who stated that if a Muslim woman is killed, the entire Muslim community becomes barbaric and they are not law-abiding citizens. The panellist had said: “Sar tann se judaa ke naare lagne lagte hai, kya kya haal kar dete hai ye log, jageh jageh maar kaat machti hai.
Another panellist made a “false generalised statement” targeting Muslim men, Ghorpade pointed out.
Ghorpade further stated that the panellist had said: “Kyun har jageh Hindu naam rakh ke ek Hindu ladki fasana ka aata hai saamne, ye bataiye? Aisa kyun hai ki jo ladki fasti hai woh Hindu hai aur jo ladka maarta hai woh Muslim nikalta hai baad main? Kyun dhoka diya jata hai iss tarah se?”
Ghorpade has stated that the panellists who tried to speak about overall crimes against women and the need to move away from the angle of ‘love jihad’ were not allowed to speak as the anchor and the other panellists kept interrupting him.
The broadcaster had replied to Ghorpade’s complaint. In their reply, Times Now Navbharat had denied all allegations. The broadcaster had stated that as a “responsible” news medium, it strives to present all its programmes on a factual basis in an unbiased manner.
The broadcaster had claimed that the allegations of ‘love jihad’ were made by a model from Jharkhand and several instances of it were reported across the country in which the affected women had alleged that youths from the Muslim community had lured Hindu women into a love trap by hiding their identity.
Whereas, the broadcaster stated that it would claim no responsibility for the opinions expressed by guests on a live debate as the anchor had no control over it.
The NBDSA found the broadcaster to be in violation of the Code of Ethics & Broadcasting Standards and the principles of impartiality, objectivity, neutrality and accuracy.
It stated that the broadcaster had, at the very beginning of the broadcast, concluded that men from a certain community lured women from another community by hiding their religious identity and committing violence or murder against such women in the name of ‘love jihad’.
The NBDSA stated that the anchor did not allow opposing views other than supporting the love jihad narrative.
It also observed that there may be instances where boys from a particular community married Hindu girls. It added: “However, some such instances should not lead to making generalised statements regarding interfaith marriages by giving it a communal colour.”
The NBDSA remarked that because of the generalisation of these incidents by targeting an entire community, the broadcaster is violating the principles of impartiality, objectivity and neutrality under the Code of Ethics & Broadcasting Standards and the Specific guidelines covering reportage relating to racial and religious harmony.
In regards to these remarks, the NBDSA imposed a fine of ₹1 lakh on Times Now Navbharat and ordered that the impugned broadcast should be removed.
Lastly, it remarked that the term love jihad should be used with serious introspection in future broadcasts as religious stereotyping amounts to a violation of the Code of Ethics.
Ghorpade complained that News18 India aired four shows that violated the Code of Ethics & Broadcasting Standards and Guidelines relating to neutrality, accuracy, fairness, religious harmony, the sensationalisation of crime, negative stereotyping and good taste.

The allegations were made against the backdrop of Walker’s murder.
Ghorpade has alleged that even though Walker was in a consensual interfaith relationship and his partner did not hide his religious identity, the channel used this case to flame communal fires. It connected it to the Islamophobic conspiracy theory of love jihad promoted by the right wing.
News18 India aired four shows with the titles: “Love jihad is an excuse, one religion is the target”, “Desh nahin jhukne denge Shraddha murder case Aaftab, Mehrauli murder”, “Aar paar, love jihad, Shraddha murder, Aftab Amin” and “Aar paar, Shraddha murder case, Aftab narco test, love jihad”.
The complainant submitted that the broadcaster had been involved in propaganda to dehumanise a minority group. He stated that in the broadcast, the anchor repeatedly violated the Code of Ethics and Guidelines by stating: “Generalise agar kiya ja raha hai toh kya generalise karna sahi hai ya galat hai? Mai toh bas sawal puch raha hun.”
Further, it was pointed out in the complaint that one of the panellists baselessly claimed that “several parliaments” across the world had accepted that love jihad exists.
It was also stated by Ghorpade that the anchor concluded the programme by baselessly stating that the gist of the debate is: “In the last 10 years, how many Hindu men hid their identity and killed Muslim women and how many Muslim men hid their identity and killed Hindu women? On one side, we see 100s of cases of Muslim men killing Hindu women and on the other side we see zero.”
The broadcaster denied all the allegations levelled against it. 
However, the NBDSA observed that it is inappropriate for the broadcaster to conduct several debates on the subject of love jihad while linking it to the Walker murder case.
It added that the broadcaster has the right to hold debate on Walker’s murder case but it must be cautious in that the broadcast should not prejudice the rights of the accused or result in a media trial.
It did not comment on the third broadcast on the grounds that the same is the subject of a first information report. However, it imposed a fine of ₹50,000 on the first, second and fourth broadcast.
The NBDSA stated: “The term love jihad should not be used loosely and should be used with great introspection in future broadcasts as religious stereotyping can corrode the secular fabric of the country, cause irreparable harm to a community and create religious intolerance or disharmony.”
Ghorpade complained that Aaj Tax aired a broadcast that mentioned that a mosque was burnt down in Nalanda, Bihar. However, the anchor did not show that Muslim shops and houses around the mosque were also burnt down and that the police did not arrive for several hours.
He stated that the anchor did not mention that when the police arrived, they misbehaved with Muslim women and looted the houses.
Ghorpade claimed that in the impugned broadcast, the tickers made inaccurate and exaggerated claims. Ghorpade also asserted that the anchor falsely claimed that only Muslim areas in India prevent outsiders’ entry. He referred to a statement of the anchor, who had said: “You have never heard of Hindu areas, Parsi areas, Sikh areas or Christian areas?
The anchor subsequently used terms such as “Line of Control” and “brought up Pakistan and China” to compare these borders with Muslim areas. He also stated that if anyone crosses these borders, the Muslims burn down houses and shops and are ready to fight with petrol bombs and rocks, Ghorpade asserted in his complaint.
The broadcaster replied to the complaint and claimed that the impugned reportage was based on the analysis of the incidents of communal violence involving stone pelting, loot and arson that took place in the festival of Ram Navami in Sasaram and Nalanda (Bihar), Vadodara (Gujarat), Sambhaji Nagar (Maharashtra) and Howrah (West Bengal).
The broadcaster stated that the reportage was a critical commentary on certain areas being demarcated as “Muslim areas” and the hazards of doing so. This was in the light of the statements made by political leaders such as Mamata Banerjee, chief minister of West Bengal, who had advised persons to avoid Ram Navami celebrations in and around “Muslim areas”, the broadcaster argued.
The broadcaster claimed that the Indian Constitution guarantees that the media has the freedom to convey information. Therefore, it is at liberty and even obligated to report on matters of public and national importance, such as communal violence around Ram Navami.
Further, the broadcaster did not address the allegations of accuracy, neutrality and fairness, religious disharmony and negative stereotyping on the grounds that relevant guidelines or specific provisions claiming its violation is not mentioned in the complaint.
The NBDSA observed that there would have been no problem with the broadcast if the anchor had confined their analysis to the incidents of communal violence. However, the channel broadcasted tickers such as: “Aaj Muslim ilaake, Kal Muslim Bharat”, “Aaj ilaaka, kal zilla, parso desh”, and “Aapne kabhi sikh ya parsi ilaaka suna hai?”, which gave a completely different colour to the programme.
The NBDSA also noted that the broadcaster generalised the incidents of communal violence committed by a few miscreants to target a particular community.
The NBDSA held that the broadcaster had violated the Code of Ethics & Broadcasting Standards by broadcasting the programme.
It also held that Aaj Tak had also violated the Specific Guidelines for Anchors conducting Programmes including debates, which require anchors to: “Not make any derisive or derogatory statements about individuals, communities or religious beliefs and practices while reporting, commenting, analysing or debating on any issue or topic in any programme including debates.”
The NBDSA has warned Aaj Tak to be careful while airing future broadcasts and has ordered it to remove the impugned broadcast.


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