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News channels under NBSA scanner for violating Code of Ethics

The News Broadcasting Standards Authority (NBSA) has pulled up various news channels – India TV, Aaj Tak, Zee News, India Today, ABP News and Zee Rajasthan News – for not adhering to the Code of Ethics and Guidelines in separate news reports aired on the respective channels. 

The complaints received were related to the news channels airing biased and one-sided report, or not exercising requisite caution while reporting on sensitive topics, or airing news report without any verification, or hurting religious sentiments. 

The NBSA, in separate hearings, studied the complaints as well as the clarifications provided by the news channels and gave its verdict in each of the complaints received. 

‘Operation Halala’ on India TV 

The Complaint: The Ministry of Information & Broadcasting (MIB) vide a letter dated 6.6.2017 had forwarded a complaint to the NBSA that Mohammad Shafeeq and others had filed regarding the telecast of a programme titled ‘Operation Halala’ on India TV on 15.4.2017. 

The complainants held that India TV’s show was malicious and defamatory. They added that ‘Operation Halala’ had alleged that the Managing Committee, Jama Masjid and Purani Seemapuri Madarsa was running a Halala Centre, performing Halala on Muslim women victims tormented by triple talaq for a sum of Rs 1 lakh. 

The Response: In response to the complaint, India TV had stated that the programme was based entirely on a ‘sting operation’ conducted by the channel’s reporters and the footage shown was the actual and non-manipulated footage. The objective was to bring to light the nefarious activities of certain persons who, in the garb of religious doctrine, were exploiting the helpless Muslim women. 

NBSA’s Decision: At a meeting held in July 2017, NBSA considered the complaint and the response and expressed its dissatisfaction with India TV’s reply and called both the parties for a hearing. After the deliberations, NBSA was of the view that the telecast was one-sided and thus, there was a violation of the principles of self-regulation relating to “impartiality and objectivity in reporting and ensuring neutrality”. It directed the channel to provide an opportunity to the Management Committee of Madarsa for three minutes on their channel to clarify their stance. Also, the video of the said programme has been directed to be removed immediately by the channel and confirm the same to NBSA. 

Reporting on sensitive issue by Aaj Tak, India Today, Zee News, ABP News and India TV 

The Complaint: The complainant, Dr Jagdeep S Chhokar (a retired professor of the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad) drew NBSA’s attention to a video titled ‘Jan Gan Man ki Baat Episode 46: Bodily Integrity and Fake News’ on online news portal www.wire.in, where there was footage of some news channels (Aaj Tak, India Today, Zee News, ABP News and India TV) reporting about some action purported to have been taken by the Indian Army, which, in fact, never happened.  This, according to the complainant, amounted to telecasting unverified information on a very sensitive issue relating to Kashmir. 

The Response: In response to this, ABP News stated that apart from the anchor mentioning the channel’s name in the wire.in video, there was no specific mention, reference or footage pertaining to any content carried on ABP News channel. 

Meanwhile, the other channels named in the complaint clarified that their news report was based on information received from “reliable sources” in the Army and from PTI. They insisted that the news was neither fake nor manufactured as alleged and that they had verified the news from other sources before airing it. 

NBSA’s Decision: NBSA at a hearing on 15.2.2018 called all the parties concerned to once again deliberate on the case. Upon hearing all the parties, NBSA was of the view that the reporting on the incident by the news channels was not for any ulterior motives or for TRPs. It further stated that it was evident that they had received the information from PTI and Army sources. However, it agreed with the complainant that the channels ought to have exercised greater care and caution while reporting on such sensitive matters. 

Zee Rajasthan News report on discovery of foetuses in hospital 

The Complaint: The complaint was filed by Dr IC Mittal, where he alleged that Zee Rajasthan News had carried an “absolutely wrong, false, baseless made up news item” titled ‘Kafi Sankhya Mein Mile Bhrun’, where the name of his hospital was mentioned. He also added that this report was later proven false by the news report by Zee Rajasthan News, which had telecast the news under the title ‘Jhooti Khabar Se Hadkamp’. 

The Response: Zee Rajasthan News in its response stated that the original new was flashed on its channel on 13.8.2017 about the discovery of foetuses during a raid carried out by officials of Pre-Conception Pre-Natal Diagnostic Technique team. It maintained that the news was aired in public interest without any malafide intention. 

However, when the channel found out after a few days that this news was incorrect, it took corrective steps and aired a corrigendum on 13.9.2017, and that therefore nothing remained to be done. 

NBSA’s Decision: Following the deliberations, NBSA was of the view that the broadcast was made without any verification. It added that there was a violation of the principles of self-regulation relating to “impartiality and objectivity in reporting, ensuring neutrality and privacy”. 

NBSA directed Zee Rajasthan News to air a regret as per a text furnished by the Authority prior to the siring of the 8 pm news on 9.4.2018.

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