The News Broadcasting Standards Authority (NBSA) has directed Hindi news channel Zee News to pay a fine of Rs. 1 lakh and issue a public apology to poet and scientist Mr. Gauhar Raza, for branding him as part of an ‘Afzal Premi Gang’ for reciting his poems in the ‘Shankar- Shaad Mushaira’.
Zee News had aired a programme titled ‘Afzal Premi Gang ka Mushaira’ several times, making derogatory statements against the participants of the event, which was held in March last year, and has been organized every year since 1954, with the object of fostering Indo-Pak cultural relations through Urdu poetry.
Mr. Raza had now contended that the programme violated the principles of impartiality, objectivity and neutrality, as contained in the News Broadcasters Association’s Code of Ethics and Broadcasting Standards. He had alleged that the programme had aired only selective portions of certain poems, and had branded him as an “anti-national” based on a prejudiced and baseless line of reasoning.
The NBSA agreed with his contentions, and observed, “The broadcaster had failed to give an opportunity to Professor Gauhar Raza, who was being reported upon, to give his version/views; broadcasting a programme using the footage of JNU incidents with the poetry recital of Raza and giving title to the programme as ‘Afzal Premi Gang ka Mushaira’ was highly inappropriate and derogatory as mere reference by Prof. Gauhar Raza while reciting poetry to ‘Kanhaiya’, ‘Nehru University’ and ‘Rohit Vemula’, could not be a ground to brand the poet, the organizers of Mushaira and the audience as Afzal Premi Gang”
It, therefore, opined, “Members present were unanimous in their view that the entire programme was intended to sensationalize the issue in a biased manner and facts were distorted and manipulated to masquerade as news.”
The channel has been asked to air the apology on 8 September and remove the video of the programme if it is hosted on the website of Zee News (or any other links). The Authority, however, could not consider Mr. Raza’s request for compensation of Rs. 1 crore, as it was beyond its jurisdiction.