CJP has moved the News Broadcasting Standards Authority (NBSA) seeking action against India Today for running a sting operation on madrasas when the Covid-19 pandemic had started to make headway in India. The show titled Madrasa Hotpots: India Today Investigation hosted by Rahul Kanwal, was aired on India Today TV news channel on April 10, 2020.
After this program was aired, it was summarily panned and criticised widely on social media for its communal content that appeared to be aimed at spreading hatred against one particular community. The entire program was a sting operation conducted in a madrasa where minor children are housed. However, madrasas serve as hostels for poor, destitute and orphaned children. This important piece of information was conveniently skipped in the show. Instead, the show blatantly claimed that these children have been hidden in the madrasa.
The show also drew a comparison between the much talked about Tablighi Jamaat case, and stated that despite concerns about the spread of Covid-19, there are children being crammed up in rooms in madrasas. The channel seems to have taken this stand in a bid to insinuate that Muslims are still defying social distancing, thus making them appear to be a greater enemy than the coronavirus itself.
The complaint states that, “While sting operations are considered a last resort in the field of journalism, to carry it out in an institution that houses poor destitute and orphaned children, can only be deemed deplorable. While such reportage defies all principles of morality, there are laws as well as standard ethical practices in place which make this kind of journalism a punishable offence.”
The complaint also draws out how the show stands to violate the code of ethics and fundamental principles of self-regulation laid out by the NBSA for its member organisations. It further points out how the channel becomes liable under the Indian Penal Code for perpetrating hate speech and for inflammatory and inciteful contents of their show.
The complaint also mentions the Bombay High Court judgment which said that the Jamaat members were made scapegoats by the government and “an attempt was made to create a picture that these foreigners were responsible for spreading Covid-19 virus in India”.
The complaint further states, “We assert that this show of India Today was a part of this larger conspiracy to subdue the Muslim community in India by blaming the spread of an entire pandemic basis one singular incident, which no case been completely established in any court of law. The clear intention of media houses like India Today was to create and sell a narrative that suited their agenda, of being anti minority, and to paint them in such a negative light, that feelings of hatred and animosity are implanted in other communities against them, and the communal divide further deepens”.
The NBSA has taken cognisance of the complaint on September 19 and while sending the complaint to India Today, has asked them to send a response to the same within 7 days.
The complaint may be read here.