Yet another Hate Watch complaint by Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP) against biased, stigmatising and most importantly fake news coverage has succeeded. On July 26, 2022, the News Broadcasting and Digital Standards Authority (NBDSA) held that the show titled ‘Toh hijab ke liye bam barsaenge?/ Danke ki chot par’ that aired on News18, violated the authority’s guidelines for fair and temperate reportage. NBDSA directed that its video be pulled down from all platforms within seven days, that is by August 2, 2022.
CJP had filed this complaint on February 21, 2022 with News18 for their unverified and misleading live debate programme titled ‘Toh hijab ke liye bam barsaenge?/ Danke ki chot par’ (Transaltion: Asking openly- So will bombs be hurled for hijab?) that aired on February 15, 2022. The show appreared to be stigmatising and demeaning the Muslim community on national television by broadcasting unverified news.
The channel’s response was dated March 11, 2022 to our Complaint dated February 21, 2022, and CJP’s complaint to the NBDSA was dated March 15, 2022. Online hearings took place on June 15, 2022 and Supreme Court lawyer Ms. Aparna Bhat alongwith Teesta Setalvad, Secretary, Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP) appeared for the complainant.
In its order dated July 26, 2022, the NBDSA noted that the principle of Impartiality and Objectivity enshrined under the Code of Ethics & Broadcasting Standards requires news broadcasters to give accuracy and balance precedence over speed otherwise, there is a danger of broadcasting ‘fake news’. It observed, “Since the issues raised in the programme were of serious nature and had serious implications, the broadcaster should have waited to obtain a clarification from the Police or Government Authorities or conducted a proper investigation and verified the news from different sources before telecasting the programme. The impugned programme had a tendency of disturbing racial and religious harmony. Since the broadcaster had not verified the facts and checked the veracity of the tweets before conducting a programme based solely on the said tweets, it had violated the principles of Accuracy, Impartiality, Objectivity and Neutrality enshrined under the Code of Ethics & Broadcasting Standards and the Specific Guidelines covering Reportage.”
Furthermore, NBDSA took serious objection to the language used by the anchor in the programme. It observed, “The broadcasters must be mindful of their duty towards communities and telecast programmes which are accurate, balanced and impartial and in accordance with the Code of Ethics and Broadcasting Standards and Guidelines.”
Accordingly, the NBDSA decided to issue a warning to the broadcaster not to hold such debates without verifying the facts and therefore, NBDSA directed that “the video of the said broadcast, if still available on the website of the channel, or YouTube, or any other links, should be removed immediately, and the same should be confirmed to NBDSA in writing within 7 days of receipt of the Order.”
The order maybe read here:
The entire show was premised on false news, prejudicial to one community, and that it appeared to have been telecast with the intent of misinforming the viewers, spreading hatred and most importantly, stigmatising and demonising the Muslim community. It was replete with misinformation and communal hatred throughout its narrative.
The show was flagged off by the host with communally charged questions, “Kya hijab ki ladayibambazi par aa chukihai? Toh ab hijab keliye bam barsenge?”, “Danke ki chot par puchrahi hu kya bam barsayenge, shikshameishariyatlayenge?” (Translation: Has the battle for the hijab reached the extent of ‘bomb-bursting’? So will bombs be hurled for hijab? I am asking openly, will bombs be hurled, will the Muslim personal law be brought into education?)
The host depicted a distorted view around the incident which took place at a school at Murshidabad, West Bengal by making statements such as “Desh ke kayi hisso mei pradarshan kari itne ugr ho chuke hai, haalat itne kharab ho gye hai ki hijab pehen kar aane se mana karne par school mei pathtar bazi ki gayi, tod phod kiya gaya, dawa kiya bam bhi yahan phenke gaye” (Translateion: In various parts across the country the protesters have been so violent that they pelted stones in the school and vandalized it, it is ascertained that bombs were hurled at the school). This was not only stigmatising the opposition-ruled state of West Bengal, but also its significant minority population.
As per the complaint, it was revealed by fact-checkers and news portals such as Alt News and The Print, that in truth, there were no bombs being hurled during the protest, and the claims made by News 18 were not supported by any ground reports or statements from local administration officials.
The complaint brought to light the obvious bias of the channel and how the host would immediately divert from a participant whenever such participant would attempt to make valid arguments. Finally, in the complaint CJP had urged the NBDSA to remove the show from all digital platforms and tender a public apology for their misinformed reportage.