News Broadcasting and Digital Standards Authority, a private group of leading news and current affairs broadcasters, imposed ₹50,000 fine on News channel News18 for its islamophobic coverage of the Karnataka hijab ban.
NBDSA, in a statement shared by Bar and Bench, said they did not find any justification in linking panellists who were supporting Hijab with Al Qaeda by airing tickers stating “#AlQaedaGangExposed”, “Hijab ka fata poster, nikla Al Qaeda”, “Al Zawahiri found behind the hijab” and “Al Qaeda has planned the hijab controversy”.
NBDSA “strongly deprecated” the tendency of the broadcaster to associate those panellists who were in favour of students wearing Hijab with Zawahiri and labelling them as “Zawahiri gang member” “Zawahiri’s ambassador”,”Zawahiri is your God, you are his fan.”
Ayman al-Zawahiri was a top Al Qaeda leader.
“NBDSA observed that the anchor had not only acted in flagrant disrespect of the Code of Ethics & Broadcasting Standards and the Specific Guidelines Covering Reportage but had also failed to abide by the decision of the Hon’ble Bombay High Court in Nilesh Navalakha & Anr. vs. Union of India & Ors (2021) SCC Online BOM 56, which enjoins an anchor to apply his/her mind and avoid the programme from drifting beyond the permissible limits, including by muting the speaker who flies off the tangent,” reads the statement.
NBDSA administers the Codes of Ethics & Broadcasting Standards, which has been voluntarily drawn by the News Broadcasters & Digital Association (NBDA) for its member broadcasters to demonstrate their commitment to responsible broadcasting and to self regulate themselves.
NBDSA noted that even Supreme Court has on numerous occasions stressed the role of the anchor in a news programme and stated that the anchor must maintain a balance between the panellists.
However, in the instant case, not only had the anchor failed to stop the other panellists from crossing the boundary but had given them a platform to express extreme views which could adversely affect the communal harmony in the country.
NBDSA held that the impugned programme was violative of the principles relating to Impartiality, Neutrality, Fairness and Good Taste & Decency under the Specific Guidelines Covering Reportage, apart from the Code of Ethics & Broadcasting Standards.
They stated that the broadcaster would be well advised to guide and train its anchor on how to conduct debates on such sensitive issues.
Accordingly, after keeping in mind, the repetitive nature of the above violations, NBDSA decided to impose a fine of Rs. 50,000/- on the broadcaster and admonished the broadcaster for conducting such a debate, which was not in accordance with the Code of Ethics and/or the observations and judgment of the Hon’ble Bombay High Court in respect of the role of the anchor in a programme as mentioned above