CJP in Action: Bringing hate-mongering news media to justice Here’s how we are taking action against TV news channels that spread hate and fake news

28, Nov 2020 | CJP Team

Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP) has a proud history of thwarting attempts to spread hate. We work tirelessly to bring to justice news channels and media outlets that spew communal venom.

To this end, we have taken action against different media houses and new agencies who we discovered were engaging in hate speech and spreading fake news. Here’s a look at how we took errant news broadcasters to task.

CJP is dedicated to finding and bringing to light instances of Hate Speech, so that the bigots propagating these venomous ideas can be unmasked and brought to justice. To learn more about our campaign against hate speech, please become a member. To support our initiatives, please donate now!

Zee News

In a show titled ‘Jammu mein zameen ke islameekaran ka DNA test’ (DNA test of Islamic conversion of land in Jammu), Zee News anchor Sudhir Chowdhary presented a graphic showing different types of Jihad practised in the country categorising them as soft and hard jihad. He also went on to encourage his viewers to tweet #zameenjihad thereby violating the guidelines of the National Broadcasting Authority (NBA) that is a private association of numerous news channels of  India that attempts to ensure neutrality, impartiality, fairness and racial and religious harmony.

In another show, a poetry meet of sorts, multiple poets such as Dinesh Raghuvanshi called for violence against the people of Jammu and Kashmir and went onto say that people will be tied not only to the bonnet but on all four sides referring to an incident involving a Kashmiri man, used as a human shield by security personnel. In doing so he violated the NBA code of conduct- “To ensure national security is not violated”.

CJP sent a complaint to the channel in both the cases and on not getting a reply, filed a complaint with the News Broadcasting Standards Authority (NBSA) that is an independent body set up by NBA for addressal, deliberation and settlement of any complaints against the broadcasts of its member channels. We pointed out the communal and inflammatory nature of the programmes and asked NBSA to direct Zee News to issue an apology, to not broadcast any content which would go against the tenets of the constitution promoting harmony, dialogue, fraternity between all sections of the society and to provide an equivalent monetary compensation to a citizen’s organisation battling hate. This prompted a reply from Zee News who dismissed all allegations and gave an unsatisfactory justification for their programmes under the garb of factually incorrect data, freedom of speech and nationalism which made clear their intentions of maligning a community and building mob mentality against it.

In the case of the poetry meet, after careful deliberation NBSA ruled in favour of CJP and thus agreed with the nature of the programmes being divisive and targeting a particular community. The Jihad case is scheduled for a virtual hearing.

Sudarshan News

A special nine-episode series of Sudarshan TV’s show “Bindaas Bol” titled – Naukarshahi mein Muslamano ki Ghuspaith ke Shadyantra ka Bada Khulasa (The conspiracy behind Muslim infiltration in UPSC – The Big Reveal) was originally scheduled to be aired from August 28, 2020. A promotional video was floated by the channel in which the Editor-in-Chief Suresh Chavhanke asked “How has there been a sudden rise in the number of Muslims in IAS and IPS? What is the secret behind scoring high marks in such a difficult exam? If Jihadis of Jamia become your Collectors and Chief Secretaries, what will happen then?” He claimed to be providing “The big reveal on the Executive being infiltrated.”

CJP then sent a complaint to NBSA about the divisive and communal nature of the programme and warned how the discriminatory statements and unverified claims can potentially “lead to mass violence and targeting of the Muslim community”. It reminded the NBSA of the hate speech and vehement hate propaganda created and distributed against the Muslim community in the past few years and the of the role of the TV news media in this regard.

NBSA responded that the complaint has been forwarded to the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (MIB), as Sudarshan News is not a part of the NBA, resulting in an order of stay by the Delhi High Court. The court requested the centre to determine if the programme should be aired. The I&B Ministry allowed the broadcasting and the first episode of the show was aired on September 11, 2020.

In this show Chavhanke showed misleading calculations to assert how Muslims get undue advantages in the recruitment exams for public office, and presented a clip of a mock interview (the sources of which are unknown) in which the candidate was being told that community plays a role in success.

He also aired clips of Akbaruddin Owaisi saying that Muslims should join police and other union services. Chavhanke verbally abused Owaisi, labelled him a traitor and argued that Owaisi should have invited condemnation from IPS officers and other organisations.

Chavanke’s anti-Muslim programme in its very first episode violated the rules of cable television network related to attacking a religious community or “using visuals or words that are contemptuous of religious groups or which promote communal attitudes and telecasting any content which is obscene, defamatory, deliberative, false and

▪        Contains attack on religions or communities or visuals or words contemptuous of religious groups or which promote communal attitudes;

▪        Contains anything obscene, defamatory, deliberate, false and suggestive innuendos and half truths; etc.”

As a result, the Supreme Court restrained it from telecasting any more episodes and passed a restraining order stating, “This program was so insidious. Citizens from a particular community who go through the same examinations and get interviewed by the same panel. This also casts aspersions on the UPSC examination. How do we deal with these issues? Can this be tolerated?”

The Supreme Court also observed, “As a Supreme Court of the nation we cannot allow you to say that Muslims are infiltrating civil services. You cannot say that the journalist has absolute freedom doing this”.

The Solicitor General was of the view that the show shouldn’t be banned arguing that in a democracy, the media shouldn’t be controlled. Justice Joseph and Justice Chandrachud, however, emphasised that there are certain principles by which the journalists are governed. “Any attempt to vilify a community must be viewed with great disfavour by this court which is a custodian of constitutional rights,” said the court while ordering Sudarshan TV to be restrained from telecasting the show.

After the order Justice Chandrachud orally expressed that the court is thinking of appointing a five-member committee to come up with certain principles governing the electronic media.

Unfortunately, hate and hate speech are rife in Indian society. You can take action, and join our campaign against hate by downloading the Hate Hatao app here, and by donating to support our efforts here.

India Today

India Today TV news channel had been conducting investigative series on Covid-19 and in the fourth part of its series, its focus was on madrasas. In a show titled Madarsa Hotspot: India Today Investigation hosted by Rahul Kanwal and aired on April 10, 2020, a sting operation, conducted in a madarsa, was shown to depict how children are crammed in rooms and are at a higher risk of contracting Covid-19. Comparisons were drawn with the Tablighi Jamaat event to wrongfully highlight that the Muslim community is not following the social distancing norms while completely ignoring the fact that these madarsas act as a shelter for deprived and destitute children.

CJP first sent a written complaint to the channel to take down the video and issue a public apology. However, failing to get an appropriate reply, we moved NBSA stating, “While sting operations are considered a last resort in the field of journalism, to carry it out in an institution that houses poor destitute and orphaned children, can only be deemed deplorable. While such reportage defies all principles of morality, there are laws as well as standard ethical practices in place which make this kind of journalism a punishable offence.” Our complaint also highlighted the judgement of the Bombay High Court which states that the government made Tablighi Jamaat members scapegoats.

The complaint also mentioned how the show was in violation of the code of ethics and other principles drawn out by the NBA and other organisations and went on to explain how it is a part of a larger attempt to subdue the Muslim community and fan the flames of anti-Muslim sentiments.

Aaj Tak

When the Ayodhya verdict was pending before the courts, the NBSA came up with certain guidelines regarding the reporting of the same to maintain social harmony. These guidelines were blatantly violated in  Aaj Tak’s show titled Desh Ke Sabse Barde Faisle Par Sabse Bardi Behes Aayodhya se Rohit Sardana ke sath (One of the biggest debates on one of the biggest decision of the country with Rohit Sardana), where one of the guests, Swami Karpatri Ji Maharaj, said  “18 November se Ayodhya me Shri Ram Janmabhoomi ka nirman hoga faisla nischittaur se hai, mere paksh me hai” (From November 18, the construction of Ram’s birth place will begin; the Judgement will undoubtedly be in our favour).

Aaj Tak for its show Desh Tak also tweeted “Janmabhoomi hamari, Ram hamare, Masjid wale kahan se padhare” (The birth place is ours, Lord Ram is ours, where did these ‘mosque people’ come from?) Both the show as well as the tweet are in violation of the guidelines laid down by the NBSA which prohibits expression of any extreme viewpoints even in debates and avoiding provocative and inflammatory debates. They also violate the principles of the code of conduct drawn by the NBSA such as impartiality and objectivity in reporting, ensuring neutrality and endangering national security. Specific guidelines on reporting were also violated which prompted CJP to file a complaint with NBSA.

In its response, Aaj Tak tried justifying the show, under the pretext of presentation of different ideological viewpoints and freedom of expression and claimed that the tweet was picked up from something said during courtroom discussions in the case. CJP pointed out that there was no disclaimer in the show clarifying that the view isn’t endorsed by the channel, neither was the name or source mentioned in the tweet.

NBSA acted on CJP’s complaint, directed Aaj Tak to remove the show from YouTube and observed that broadcasters would be entirely responsible for violations of the Broadcasting Standards and Guidelines in relation to anything aired on the channel and “disclaimers” would not reduce any responsibility on part of the channel. It also noted that even though the channels cannot control what the guests say it can avoid inviting people of a particular ideological leaning, thus marking another victory for CJP.

Times Now

CJP has filed a complaint with the NBSA against Times Now for the vilification of Teesta Setalvad in two of its programs broadcasted on February 19, 2020 and March 9, 2020. Setalvad, a respected journalist and human rights defender, was called a “Modi baiter” on her visit to Shaheen Bagh. This despite Setalvad having made no statements against the Prime Minister. She has been dubbed a “Modi baiter” by the channel earlier too in 2017.

Setalvad was also misquoted as objecting to the conduct of the Census. CJP had originally complained to the broadcaster directly, drawing attention to the fact that Setalvad had clearly said, “We do not want census work to stop, but our demand is that the census work should not begin until NPR is withdrawn.”

On April 30, 2020 Times Now responded by dubbing the allegations made by CJP as “false, frivolous and vexatious” and rejected them outright. They also challenge the locus of the Centre for Justice and Peace in the present complaint as the news articles mentioned in the complaint have no reference to the organisation or Ms. Setalvad’s role therein. They even tried to justify the use of the term ‘Modi Baiter’ in their reportage.

Undeterred, CJP then filed a rejoinder on May 5 refusing to accept times Now’s denial of its allegations. CJP’s rejoinder pointed out another instance in 2017 when Setalvad had been dubbed ‘Modi Baiter’ in a report on the Ayodhya Ram temple just because she was one of the many interveners in the Ayodhya land dispute case in the Supreme Court.

But on May 26, 2020 Times Now once again rejected CJP’s claims that the channel was engaging in a willful campaign of vilification against Teesta Setalvad. But the channel agreed to update both news reports (February 19, 2020 and March 9, 2020) to “inform viewers of Ms. Setalvad’s denial of the contentions raised in the said news reports.”

On October 28, 2020, the NBSA informed Times Now news channel, via an official email, to be present for a hearing on November 26, 2020, to look into allegations of a vilification campaign against journalist and activist Teesta Setalvad.

The email said, “NBSA was of the prima facie view that the action of the broadcaster was not correct as it goes against the principles laid down in the Code of Ethics which states that “significant mistakes made in the course of any broadcast is acknowledged and corrected on air immediately” ; “errors of facts should be corrected at the earliest , giving sufficient prominence to the broadcast of the correct version of the facts” . In the light of the above requirements, NBSA decided that the broadcaster be directed to submit to the NBSA the copies of the articles/ news reports published on 19.2.2020 and 9.3.2020. and the copies of the updated articles/news reports published within seven days of receipt of the letter from the NBSA.”

The email also states, “NBSA also decided to call the broadcaster and the complainant be called for a hearing at the next meeting of the NBSA. You are accordingly requested to appear for a hearing on 26.11.2020 through video conference, the time and link for which will be sent a day before the hearing. Both parties should ensure the presence of their authorized representative or counsel at the said date, and time failing which the matter will be dealt with without further reference.”

Best Hindi News

The channel has been propagating anti-Dalit sentiments by constantly upholding caste supremacy. It does so by showing ‘social worker’ Deepak Sharma’s videos across its social media platforms.

Dharmendra Singh, the Chief Editor of Best Hindi News (according to his Facebook profile and Desi Media Sach Khabar, Faridabad, Haryana) has shared many stories on Facebook. He appears to support the Uttar Pradesh Police for lathi-charging activists reaching Hathras for ‘drama’, proclaiming that the Hathras case was just a means to malign the Yogi Government for which the media houses have received funding. His Best Hindi News page has shared videos (uploaded by Deepak Sharma) of the same.

Deepak Sharma justified the burning of the corpse of the Hathras victim by the police at night in the name of preventing it from becoming the breeding ground of insects. He also interviewed Omkar Singh who defended the accused.

In the past Deepak Sharma has been seen assaulting a man in a video (uploaded by himself) for making an ‘objectionable’ meme and engaged in other such, violent, hateful, communally inflammatory activities.

CJP thus filed a complaint against him in 2019 with the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) and Facebook which got him banned from the latter, however he runs another page on Facebook- Bhagva Hind, apart from his own profile which has a considerable number of followers.

CJP filed a complaint with Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeITY) against Best Hindi News for sharing and thereby upholding the hateful views of Deepak Sharma which includes justification of the forced cremation of the young Dalit girl claiming it had to be done to maintain public order in Uttar Pradesh.

The complaint lists several violations of the sections of the Information and Technology Act, Indian Penal Code and norms of Journalistic Code that took place when these profiles were run. It throws light on numerous offences such as outraging religious feeling, promoting hatred and enmity, etc. hoping that the Ministry will take notice and action on the misuse of the digital platform in spreading misinformation and hate among people.

Pushpendra Kulshreshtha

CJP has moved Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (MIB) against Pushpendra Kulshreshtha (ex-journalist and former Secretary General of Press Club of India) who has been using social media to spread hate using Islamic terror, Kashmir, anti- nationalism, Student Islamic Movement of India, Popular Front of India, etc.

The complaint highlights his hatred against Muslims in the country along with his dislike for brotherhood. The complaint also sites inflammatory speeches made by him in different gatherings. The complaint lists down the violation of several sections of the Information Technology Act and Penal Code that such content on social media violates. It highlights various offences of promoting enmity, causing disharmony, outrageous religious feelings, spreading unverified claims hoping that ministry takes cognisance of such misuse of the social media and the social unrest it could lead to.

CJP staying true to its objective has continuously and vehemently fought against hate and played its part in maintaining the secular fabric of the nation.

 

Related:

CJP in Action: Hate Watch

Taking Errant News Broadcasters To Task

Understand What Constitutes Hate Speech

How Hate Builds

 

 

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