In June 2022 the arrest of Ms. Teesta Setalvad invited protests from various organisations and well meaning citizens, opposing her arrest, calling it political vendetta. Her arrest was widely covered in news media as she was booked under trumped up charges of giving false evidence while she was fighting against the system just so that the victims of the 2002 Gujarat Pogrom get justice. While some news channels gave her arrest the fair representation it warranted, there were some channels like Times Now, which once again jumped the gun and set to tarnish the image of Ms. Setalvad, who is a journalist herself as well as a well known crusader of human rights in India.
On June 25, 27 and 28, 2022 Times Now aired three shows with the intention to portray Ms Setalvad as unworthy of trust and compassion. The channel had a field day around her arrest and the charges levied on her by casting aspersions on her humanitarian work and vilifying her by casting aspersions on her credibility as a Human Rights Defender.
The tickers that ran through the show included:
“Lutyens ‘Fix Modi’ Plot Nailed?”
“SC nail ‘Fix Modi’ Plot”
“Teesta-UPA 1.4 Crore irregular Handshake”
“Padma, Post and Paisa”
“Modi Fixer was Favoured”
“Reward for ‘Ruin Modi’ Plot?”
The complaint had stated that the hosts of the various shows, namely – Navika Kumar, Rahul Shivshankar, and Poonam Budre appeared biased towards the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) spokespersons throughout the show.
During the hearing held on December 15, 2022 Advocates Aparna Bhat and Karishma Maria appearing for CJP [assisted by the CJP team] submitted that in the show, the panellists speaking in favour of Ms. Setalvad were constantly interrupted by the hosts while those speaking against her were granted more time.
The NBDSA, in its order stated that while parts of the shows discussed the Supreme Court judgement in Zakia Ahsan Jafri vs State of Gujarat and Anr 2022 SCC Online SC773, the tickers used during the show, as mentioned above were “neither necessary nor contextual and not in good taste as well”.
The NBDSA said that it “does not appreciate the manner in which some of the tickers were aired during the impugned programmes. The Authority also advised the channel to not telecast such tickers in future.
The NBDSA has directed the channel to edit the video of the impugned shows available on their website or on YouTube and remove the tickers: “Modi Baiter Arrested” “Lutyens ‘Fix Modi’ Plot Nailed?” within 7 days.
In an earlier instance as well Times Now had resorted to the mischief of defaming Ms Setalvad by calling her a ‘Modi Baiter’ and alleging she was tutoring the protestors at Shaheen Bagh, where, mainly women, were protesting against the Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019 (CAA). In its November 2021 order, the NBDSA had said, “In this context, using bold headlines and attributing her to be ‘Modi Baiter’ seems out of context and doesn’t appear to be an objective assessment of her speech, lacks neutrality and accuracy and also violeate guidelines which require that facts should be clearly distinguishable from, and not mixed up with opinion, analysis and comment.” The 2021 order may be read here.
The complete order may be read here.