The News Broadcasting & Digital Standards Authority (NBDSA), a self-regulatory agency set up by news and digital broadcasters, has pulled up News18 India for turning a news debate on hijab into a “communal issue” and imposed a fine of Rs 50,000 on the channel for not adhering to guidelines.
The NBDSA also directed the channel to remove the video of the programme from its website and all platforms.
Justice A K Sikri (retd), chairperson of NBDSA, stated in the order dated October 21 that in case “such violations are repeated in future, it may have to direct the broadcaster to ensure the presence of the anchor Mr Aman Chopra before NBDSA.”
Chopra was not available for a comment.
On Chopra’s failure to contain other panelists from crossing the line, the order said, ”The anchor had not only acted in flagrant disrespect of the Code of Ethics & Broadcasting Standards and the Specific Guidelines Covering Reportage but also failed to abide by the decision of 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 permissible limits, including by muting the speaker who flies off the tangent.”
In his complaint, Indrajeet Ghorpade had stated that in the show aired on April 6, the anchor made inflammatory statements against Muslim panelists. The complaint mentioned that tickers like “#AlQaedaGangExposed”, “Al Zawahiri found behind the hijab” and “Al Qaeda has planned hijab controversy” were used.
The broadcaster submitted that it had reported facts publicly available and widely reported by other outlets about the hijab row. It also submitted that in the programme, it had questioned the motives of Al Zawahiri, and had not made any comment in reference to the girls who were raising their voice in support of hijab.
The NBDSA, which adjudicates upon complaints about broadcasts, said it did not have any problem with the subject but on the narrative of the debate. In its order, 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 Karnataka HC. It was also open for the channel to discuss if some hidden international forces were inciting people, it said.
The NBDSA rejected the channel’s submission that terms such as “Hijabi Gang” and “Zawahiri gang” were used only in respect of “invisible powers behind the controversy”, and not in respect of the students.