26 Oct 2022 12:24 PM GMT
The News Broadcasting & Digital Standards Authority (NBDSA) has pulled up the News18 India for turning a news debate on wearing of Hijab into a "communal issue" and deprecated its tendency to associate the panelists supporting the head covering with Al Qaeda.The NBDSA Chairperson Justice A.K Sikri (retd.) has issued specific warning to the news channel's anchor Aman Chopra that it may have...
The News Broadcasting & Digital Standards Authority (NBDSA) has pulled up the News18 India for turning a news debate on wearing of Hijab into a "communal issue" and deprecated its tendency to associate the panelists supporting the head covering with Al Qaeda.
The NBDSA Chairperson Justice A.K Sikri (retd.) has issued specific warning to the news channel's anchor Aman Chopra that it may have to direct his employer to ensure his presence in case such violations are repeated in future.
"The anchor had not only acted in flagrant disrespect of the Code of Ethics & Broadcasting Standards and the Specific Guidelines Covering Reportage but had also failed to abide by the decision of the Hon'ble Bombay High Court in Nilesh Navalakha & Anr. vs. Union of India & Ors (2021) SCC Online BOM 56, which enjoins an anchor to apply his/her mind and avoid the programme from drifting beyond the permissible limits, including by muting the speaker who flies off the tangent," the self-regulatory body said in the decision.
A complaint had been filed by Indrajeet Ghorpade before the body alleging that in a debate programme aired on April 06 by the channel, the anchor referred to the Muslim students as "Hijabi Gang", "Hijabwali Gazwa Gang" and made a false allegations that they had resorted to rioting. The complaint further said that the anchor made various inflammatory statements against the Muslim panelists on the show. It was also alleged that tickers like "#AlQaedaGangExposed", "Hijab ka fata poster, nikla Al Qaeda", "Al Zawahiri found behind the hijab" and "Al Qaeda has planned the hijab controversy" were used by the channel.
In its decision, the NBDSA noted that it was permissible for the broadcaster to have a debate on students wearing Hijab in educational institutions after the issue was decided by the Karnataka High Court. It was also open to the broadcaster to address the issue as to whether some hidden international forces were inciting the people in this country and blowing the issue out of proportion, it said.
However, NBDSA at the outset rejected a submission of the news channel that the terms like "Hijabi Gang", "Hijabwali Gazwa Gang" and "the Zawahiri gang" were used only in respect of the "invisible powers" which were allegedly "behind the controversy" and not in respect of the students who were protesting in support of Hijab.
"While having a debate as to whether wearing of Hijab be allowed in the schools or not, there was no occasion to blow up the debate by making it a communal issue. NBDSA strongly deprecated the tendency of the broadcaster to associate those panellists who were in favour of wearing Hijab by the students with Zawahiri and labelling them as "Zawahiri gang member" "Zawahiri's ambassador" ,"Zawahiri is your God, you are his fan"," it said.
NBDSA also did not find any justification in linking those panellists/persons who were supporting Hijab with Al Qaeda by airing tickers stating "#AlQaedaGangExposed", "Hijab ka fata poster, nikla Al Qaeda", "Al Zawahiri found behind the hijab" and "Al Qaeda has planned the hijab controversy".
Slamming Chopra, the NBDSA said that even the Supreme Court has on numerous occasions stressed on the role of the anchor in a news programme and stated that the anchor must maintain a balance between the panellists.
"However, in the instant case, not only had the anchor failed to stop the other panellists from crossing the boundary but had given them a platform to express extreme views which could adversely affect the communal harmony in the country," it said.
Holding the programme to be violative of the principles relating to Impartiality, Neutrality, Fairness and Good Taste & Decency under the Specific Guidelines Covering Reportage, apart from the Code of Ethics & Broadcasting Standards, the NBDSA said the broadcaster would be well advised to guide and train its anchor on how to conduct debates on such sensitive issues.
"Accordingly, after keeping in mind, the repetitive nature of the above violations, NBDSA decided to impose a fine of Rs. 50,000/- on the broadcaster and admonished the broadcaster for conducting such a debate, which was not in accordance with the Code of Ethics and/or the observations and judgment of the Hon'ble Bombay High Court in respect of the role of the anchor in a programme as mentioned above," it said in the order.
NBDSA further directed the broadcaster to remove the video of the programme from its website and all platforms. The same should be confirmed to NBDSA in writing within seven days of the Order, it said.