Author and researcher Dr. Kota Neelima, who had earlier intervened in the Sudarshan TV case before the Supreme Court, has placed on record a study on the way television debates are conducted and how they constitute hate speech.
The application filed through Advocate Sunil Fernandes has utilized the services of Rate the Debate, an independent research platform, which has evaluated the content of the news coverage and debates undertaken by journalists Arnab Goswami and Navika Kumar.
The report contains a detailed analysis of 32 weekdays of news content, 55 hours of programming, and 76 debate topics conducted by Arnab Goswami on Republic TV, and 24 days of news content, 20 hours of programming and 32 debate topics conducted by Navika Kumar on Times Now.
As per the application, the study shows that 65% of the total debates conducted by Goswami from July 31, 2020 to September 15, 2020 and 69% of the total debates conducted by Navika Kumar from June 16, 2020 to October 6, 2020, were on a singular topic – the death of Bollywood actor Sushant Singh Rajput.
Dr Neelima’s application adds,
“Not only an overwhelming and inordinate amount of time is devoted to a single topic, but the manner, tone, tenor and content of the ‘News Coverage’ and ‘TV Debate’ was also highly toxic, polarised and filled with innuendos, salacious gossips, wild allegations, and character assassinations.”
Application filed in Supreme Court
“Firstly, they deliberately create a hypothesis or a false construct/premise, for example, Sushant Singh Rajput was murdered and did not commit suicide.
They will then insinuate that a top politician or a powerful personality is behind the “cover-up”.
Once this hypothesis and insinuation/innuendo is established, the viewer will be bombarded with a relentless barrage of “TV Debates”, “Hashtags”, “Evidences” and “Conspiracy Theories” which would convince the viewer of the hypothesis even before the prosecuting agency has completed its investigation and filed its charge-sheet.”
It is further averred that certain TV anchors have consistently created a false narrative through media trials influencing public opinion.
Dr Neelima has gone on to state that those media trials are another facet of hate speech. She states,
“Media Trials can take place for a variety of reasons, for instance, it can be in order to grab a higher share of Television Rating Points (TRPs) or it can be something more sinister whereby certain private television channels act as proxy propaganda machines for the Central government.”
Sudarshan TV was served a show-cause notice by the Union Ministry of Information and Broadcasting to appear for a personal hearing and show how their show on “UPSC Jihad” did not violate the Programme Code under the Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act, 1995.
A formal decision from the Centre is awaited and the case is set to be taken up by the Supreme Court thereafter.
Dr. Neelima had earlier intervened in the case along with Sangeeta Tyagi, alleging that there is a parallel between the current state of the electronic media in India and Nazi Germany.