12, Feb 2019 | CJP Team
CJP’s complaint dated July 9, 2018, against Zee News for violating the News Broadcasting Standards Authority’s (NBSA) Special Guidelines covering Impartiality, Neutrality and Fairness, when it aired a programme titled ‘Kya Kehta Hai India’ on June 6, 2018 at 8 p.m., has been accepted. Both parties have been called for a hearing in New Delhi on February 25, 2019.
CJP, through its president, Anil Dharker and secretary, Teesta Setalvad had filed a detailed complaint against the television network for airing of the programme that, in CJP’s considered view, was both hate-filled and violence-inducing.
In a decision communicated to CJP on February 8, 2019, the NBSA has clearly stated that, in its meeting held on January 17, 2019, the original complaint and the response of the broadcaster were considered and the original CD of the broadcasted programme was also viewed. In the communication received by CJP, the NBSA has stated that, “NBSA was of the view that the broadcaster was in breach of the Specific Guidelines Covering Reportage No. 2 Impartiality, Neutrality & Fairness 2.1 which states that ‘For balanced reportage, broadcasters should remain neutral and ensure that diverse views are covered in their reporting, especially on a controversial subject, without giving undue prominence to any particular view’ and Guideline 3. Law & Order, Crime & Violence which states that ‘Broadcasters should not glamorize or in any way promote individuals, groups or organisations, that employ or advocate the use of violence or engage in criminal/nefarious activity. Hooliganism, vandalism and all forms of delinquency should not be shown in favourable light’ and the Clause 7 of the Principles of Self-Regulation of the Code of Ethics and Broadcasting Standards endangering National Security.”
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On June 30, 2018, in its ‘Kya Kehta Hai India’ segment, Zee News aired a poets’ meet, or kavi sammelan. The programme featured multiple poets who called for widespread violence against the population of Jammu and Kashmir, with no regard to the hatred they were propagating. They also displayed no sensitivity towards the possible effects of such propaganda, especially on the delicate socio-cultural fabric of Indian society today. One poet, Dinesh Raghuvanshi, callously said that people against the Indian army in Kashmir would be taped not just to the bonnet of the car but on all four sides, seemingly mocking a Kashmiri man who, in 2017, was tied to the front of an Army jeep as a human shield.
CJP wrote to Zee on July 9, seeking an appropriate apology to the Indian public “for carrying such irresponsible, inciteful and violence-inducing content” and breaching basic media ethics and principles. After failing to get a response from Zee, CJP filed an official complaint with the NBSA on July 30. Action from the NBSA prompted Zee’s response to CJP, dated August 23. Following this, CJP replied to the NBSA, countering Zee’s response, which highlighted that Article 19 of the Indian Constitution guarantees the right to freedom of expression. CJP had received a response from Zee Media Corporation Ltd. (ZMCL) only after we first sent a letter, and then filed a complaint with the NBSA, over hate-filled and violence-inducing content aired on Zee News in June 2018. CJP had since responded to the NBSA, requesting that our complaint be pursued further.
In CJP’s response, we acknowledged that Article 19 of the Constitution guarantees the right to freedom of expression, but noted that “reasonable restrictions can be imposed on freedom of speech and expression in the interest of security of State.” Moreover, CJP highlighted Article 51A of the Constitution, which directs that it is the duty of every Indian citizen “to abide by the Constitution and respect its ideals and institutions,” and, among other fundamental duties, says that it is Indian citizens’ duty “to promote harmony and the spirit of common brotherhood amongst all the people of India transcending religious, linguistic and regional or sectional diversities; to renounce practices derogatory to the dignity of women”.
CJP argued in our letter that Zee’s reply “in no way satisfactorily responds to the issues raised in our complaint,” and reiterated that Zee News violated NBSA code of conduct, which states that national security must not be violated. Mr. Raghav of ZMCL contended that the Zee News programme in question was based on the surgical strikes mounted by the Indian military in September 2016, to which CJP responded in our letter, noting that they were “in no way is the defining moment or justification” for the programme, which may be viewed here.
CJP also highlighted that “nationalism” was argued as justification for airing the Zee News programme, arguing, “we believe in no way does violence and or vitriol embody nationalism.” We reiterated our original requests, calling on the NBSA to direct Zee News to issue a public apology. CJP is also seeking that the NBSA direct the channel not to air such hateful content again that violates the fundamental tenets of our Constitution, and directs that the channel provide monetary compensation to a citizens’ group fighting hatred.