NBSA fines News18 Kannada, Suvarna News, censures Times Now over Tablighi Jamaat Coverage

The National Broadcasting Standards Authority (NBSA) has fined Kannada channels News18 Kannada and Suvarna News and English channel Times Now for lack of objectivity in reporting news targeting the Tablighi Jamaat members last year, complainant Campaign Against Hate Speech (CAHS) said on Thursday.

The NBSA action came after a complaint filed by CAHS against the “hateful coverage of the Covid-19 pandemic in which they had targeted members of Tablighi Jamaat as well as the entire Muslim community.”

News18 Kannada has been fined Rs one lakh for “violating the Code of Ethics and Broadcasting Standards, Principles of Self Regulation relating to impartiality and objectivity.” The channel is also directed to air an apology on June 23 before the 9 PM news in text and in voice-over.

The “manner in which the programmes were presented was highly objectionable” and the report on Tablighi Jamaat congregation in Delhi was based on “pure conjecture”. “The tone, tenor and language were crass, prejudiced and disrespectful. The programmes were prejudicial, inflammatory, and crossed all boundaries of good taste and sensibility without any concern for the feelings of a religious group,” the statement read.

Suvarna News has been fined Rs 50,000 for violating the Fundamental Principles of Impartiality, Objectivity and Neutrality in Reporting as well as guidelines relating to Racial and Religious Harmony.

The NBSA examined seven shows of Suvarna News flagged by CAHS and held that the “entire blame/cause of the spread of the Covid-19 virus was linked to the Tablighi Jamaat and in turn to a particular community” in six of the seven shows. “The titles of the programmes have an insidious effect which would incite communal violence. The programmes had gone beyond facts and certainly crossed the limits of good taste and decency in reporting,” the CAHS quoted the NBSA as saying.

Times Now has been issued a censure “for telecasting…a programme on a sensitive issue which could create communal dissensions amongst communities” and the broadcaster has been advised to be “careful in choosing its panellists and try to avoid those persons to be panellists who are known in the public domain to have rabid and extreme views”.