News 18 Kannada and Suvarna fined over Tablighi Jamaat Coverage

Self-regulatory mechanisms within the media such as the NBSA can and will hold media outlets accountable for their faulty and divisive journalism.

CAHS Report on Hate Speech
CAHS Report on Hate Speech. Source: Huffingtonpost.in

On 16th June 2021,The National Broadcasting Standards Authority (NBSA) issued orders against two Kannada news channels, Suvarna News and News18 Kannada and one English news channel,Times Now, based on the complaints filed by the Campaign Against Hate Speech (CAHS) last year.

Campaign Against Hate Speech (CAHS), formed in February 2020, has been tracking and recording hate speech in the media which has been targeting marginalised communities. It has taken its findings to a number of regulatory bodies in the media such as the NBSA and Press Council of India. The organsation has made complaints against media publications and channels for their violation of media-related laws and guidelines, in their agendas of propagating hate towards marginalised communities.

Symbol of Hate Speech Beda (Campaign Against Hate Speech)

The campaign included in their complaint, the hateful coverage of the coronavirus pandemic in which these media outlets had targeted members of Tablighi Jamaat as well as the entire Muslim population of the country.

According to the Wages of Hate: Journalism in Dark Times report put together by CAHS, the media coverage of the event by mainstream news outlets displayed three major themes. The first being that the Tablighi Jamaat is the sole reason for the spread of COVID-19 in the country. Along with this, these outlets put forth a conspiracy that the attendees of the event purposefully wanted to spread the virus in the country in the name of ‘Jihad’. The second theme is the call to socially and economically boycott all Muslims, their shops, their roadside stalls, vegetable carts, etc. The third theme was the call for genocide of Muslims. This indicates the height at which the propaganda was and is being circulated in the country, whereby statements that call for genocide of a whole community are normalised, and far from prosecution. Prominent channels that displayed this type of reporting were Republic TV, Public TV, Suvarna News, Zee News, Times Now, Amar Ujala, and ANI News Agency.

Suvarna News is owned by news channel Asianet News Network, a news media subsidiary of Jupiter Capital Private Limited. The majority shareholder of the company is Rajeev Chandrasekhar, who is a Rajya Sabha member from the Bharatiya Janata Party. The other channel named in the CAHS report is News18 Kannada, which is owned by Reliance 18 channel. It is important to note how corporates are largely funding hate speech and are in cahoots with ruling political force.

The reportage alongside encouragement of state and central governments, led to large scale arrests of many of the attendees (both domestic and international), in various states. Around 3500 foreign nationals were detained by law enforcement agencies and were booked under a number of sections of the IPC. Many of these arrests were made for “spreading the disease” while some were made for violation of visa regulations in the case of the foreign attendees. In the case of Maharashtra, many Jamaat members were booked under the offence of “attempt to murder”, which is a non-bailable offence.

Violations and Punishments Given to the News Channels

News18 Kannada has been fined Rs.One lakh which is to be paid to the News Broadcasters Association within seven days of the receipt of the order. They have been fined by the NBSA for “violating Code of Ethics and Broadcasting Standards, Principles of Self Regulation relating to impartiality and objectivity”. The programme didn’t present much verifications for the claims it made, and violated Guideline No 9, which relates to Racial and Religious Harmony. The NBSA has also ordered the channel to publicly apologise on its channel on June 23, 2021 prior to the 9 PM news. The apology must be presented both in text and in voice over. It has issued a text of the apology which has to be translated to Kannada and aired.

Suvarna News has been fined Rs. 50,000 to be paid to the News Broadcasters Association, again within seven days of the receipt of the order for “violating the Fundamental Principles of Impartiality, Objectivity and Neutrality in Reporting as well Guideline No.9 relating to Racial and Religious Harmony.”

Both channels have been asked to immediately take down videos of broadcasts on the channel’s website, Youtube page. The NBSA is to be informed that the same has been done, in writing sent within 7 days.

Times Now has been issued a censure “for telecasting…a programme on a sensitive issue which could create communal dissensions amongst communities.” The broadcaster has been advised to be “careful in choosing its panelists and try to avoid those persons to be panelists who are known in the public domain to have rabid and extreme views”. The broadcaster has also been advised to brief its panelists about the Code of Ethics and Guidelines. This is to be done so that provocative statements will not be made by panelists appearing on the channel.

The above orders given by the NBSA are a step in the right direction. It shows that self-regulatory mechanisms within the media such as the NBSA can and will hold media outlets accountable for their faulty and divisive journalism.

This article is a summary of the report put forward by CAHS detailing the violations and the respective punishments given to the three media outlets by the NBSA on the complaint of the CAHS.

Read: Combating Hate Speech And Demanding Ethical Journalism

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