04, Jul 2022 | CJP Team
On July 1, 2022, CJP filed a complaint with Times Now against the three debate shows aired on their channel on June 25, 27 and 28, 2022 discussing the arrest of Teesta Setalvad. We objected to the tone, tenor and choice of words spoken as well as displayed on the screen during the shows, as it all suggested that the intention of the shows was to project Teesta Setalvad, a highly respected journalist and human rights defender, as someone unworthy of trust or compassion.
It sought to question her patriotism and credibility, and presented information about her in a manner that not only demeaned and vilified her, but also cast aspersions upon her humanitarian work.
At the outset, the entire telecast of the three debate shows appeared to be one-sided and partisan, violating the basic principles of journalism and those laid down by the esteemed News Broadcasting and Digital Standards Authority (NBDSA). 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.
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Even though the videos of the shows in question were deleted by YouTube for violation of its policies, CJP filed a complaint as the conduct of the hosts of the shows was deeply objectionable, and we wanted to ensure that measures are taken in the future by the channel so that such incidents are not repeated.
These are the Times Now debate shows in question that began with sensationalist taglines during their broadcast:
June 25, 2022- Teesta Setalvad arrested by Gujarat Crime branch; Plot nailed; plotters next?
In this show, the anchor Poonam Budre made no attempt to interrupt the panelists from carrying out a character assassination of Teesta Setalvad on national television without any evidence.
June 27, 2022- Was Teesta’s NGO given money? Did Congress plotted (sic) conspiracy against Modi?
The host Navika Kumar went on to make baseless and false allegations against Teesta Setalvad of fraudulently obtaining funds for her trust from the UPA government. She falsely claimed that the trust was ineligible to obtain such funds. It is further falsely claimed by her that the funds were used to print textbooks that were full of corrosive communal hate.
It can be seen how the host moved onto another panelist when she didn’t get a favourable answer from any panelist. She seemed to be more patient with those speaking against Teesta Setalvad rather than the ones speaking in her favour.
June 28, 2022- Teesta Setalvad exposed; Rules bent to grant funds, proof of Congress patronage uncovered
In the said show the host Rahul Shivshankar can be seen discussing the report by a 3-member bench Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) at length, alleging that Teesta Setalvad’s NGO was ineligible to receive the HRD grant. The claims made by the channel based on this report, insinuating that there is sufficient evidence against Teesta Setalvad, clearly amounts to a media trial which is not permissible in law.
The complaint has urged the channel to make a copy of these videos available to CJP in its entirety, so that the matter can be taken up with the News Broadcasting and Digital Standards Authority (NBDSA).
The complaint re-iterated that claims made by the channel insinuating that Teesta Setalvad had been proven guilty or there is sufficient evidence against her to prove her guilty, clearly amounted to a media trial which is not permissible in law.
Moreover, the channel flashed sensationalist taglines and tickers during the broadcasts which gave an impression that the accused had already been declared guilty. Here are a few examples from the three shows:
BJP Wants ‘Fixer In The Dock’
‘Modi Baiter’ Arrested
Lutyens ‘Fix Modi’ Plot Nailed?
Teesta Files Unravel Tonight
Insider Reveals Rs. 1.4 Cr ‘Deal’
SC Nails ‘Fix Modi’ Plot
Teesta-UPA 1.4 Crore Irregular Handshake
‘Padma’, Post And Paisa
Modi Fixer Was Favoured
Rules Bent To Grant Funds
Taxpayers Bled To Oblige
‘Quid Pro Quo’ Proof In 9 Pages
Proof Of Cong ‘Patronage’
‘Reward’ For ‘Ruin Modi’ Plot?
In the complaint, CJP agreed that the media had the freedom to report on any subject matter concerning public interest. As per the complaint, airing news of Teesta Setalvad’s arrest was well within the rights of the news channel, however, they cannot treat the police report as gospel truth and therefore on that basis alone cannot proceed to discuss the program as if the charges made against her have been proved before the court of law.
According to the complaint, the broadcasts violated the principles of Impartiality, Objectivity and Neutrality enshrined under the Code of Ethics & Broadcasting Standards and Guidelines issued by the News Broadcasting and Digital Standards Authority (NBDSA). It stated that when the debate shows in question are viewed in entirety, the broadcasters cannot deny the fact that these taglines create a certain perception amongst the public and must therefore be used carefully especially in controversial matters.
The complaint further stated that the host appeared to be biased towards those panelists who were speaking in favour of the BJP in all the three debate shows. It appeared as if the host and the BJP supporters had teamed up against the other panelists who were at least individually making their valid points and voicing different opinions. CJP claimed that the host was expected and supposed to be a neutral person but in the said shows, the hosts’ bias and favouritism was clearly visible.
The complaint cited the case of Nilesh Navalakha v. Union of India, [2021 SCC OnLine Bom 56] where the Bombay High Court delivered a judgment analysing media trials in the Sushant Singh Rajput death case, observing that the media ought to avoid reports touching upon an ongoing investigation and present facts which are in public interest rather than “what, according to the media, the public is interested in.”
It then went on to cite the case of Manu Sharma v. State (NCT of Delhi); (2010) 6 SCC 1, where the Supreme Court observed that there existed a serious risk of prejudice being caused if the media exercised unrestricted and unregulated freedom in so far as carrying out parallel trial procedures without being held up to any standard.
It even cited the most recent case of Nupur Sharma where the Supreme Court’s vacation bench of Justices Surya Kant and JB Pardiwala rebuked the former BJP spokesperson for making “disturbing” statements against the founder of a particular religious community on national television. The Supreme Court observed that the channel had no reason to discuss the matter which is sub-judice, “except to promote an agenda”. It further added that if Sharma was aggrieved by alleged misuse of the debate, she should have lodged an FIR against the anchor.
The complaint has demanded a public apology from the news channel failing which it states that CJP shall take legal action at the appropriate fora including a complaint to the News Broadcasting Digital Standards Authority (NBDSA).
The complaint maybe read here: