29, Oct 2020 | CJP Team
On October 28, 2020, the National Broadcasting Standards Authority (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.”
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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.”
NBSA took cognisance of CJP’s complaint saying, “The complainant alleged that the channel has resorted to inordinate and unwarranted labelling of Ms. Setalvad as a “Modi Baiter” to fuel jingoism in general and in utter disregard of journalistic ethics. While this has been happening for many years, the attacks have become particularly vicious of late. An article and a video uploaded on their website dated March 9, speaks about Ms. Setalvad’s views on National Population Register (NPR) in a manner that wrongly and maliciously interpret her stand as being against the conduct of Census in the country.”
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clearly said, “We do not want census work to stop, but our demand is that the census work should not begin until NPR is withdrawn.” We were deeply disturbed at how Times Now even broadcasted an entire show purely based on their own views, devoid of facts and extrapolating a self-created narrative that only maligns Ms. Setalvad’s image as a human rights defender. In this program, Ms. Setalvad is being called a “Modi Baiter” yet again, despite her having made no statement against the Prime Minister at Shaheen Bagh. CJP’s complaint dealt with two programs broadcast on February 19, 2020 (related to Setalvad’s visit to Shaheen Bagh) and March 9, 2020 (the show where she was vilified further).
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.”
Decision of NBSA
The email states, “NBSA considered the complaint, response and the rejoinder by the complainant and also viewed the broadcast. NBSA concurred with the submissions made by the complainant that the channel had conducted a 37-minute debate of the mere presence of Ms. Setalvad at Shaheen Bagh and had not used the full text of what she had said when she visited the Saheen Bagh protest site.”
The NBSA also observed, “Furthermore, the channel had not taken the version of the person being reported upon and created a false narrative and used bold headlines like “Modi Baiter” in the programme ,which were certainly in violation of the principles of objectivity, neutrality and accuracy and also requires that “ facts should be clearly distinguishable from, and not be mixed up with , opinion , analysis and comment” and that the version of the person being reported on should be given.”
The entire text of NBSA’s email directing Times Now to be present for the November 26, 2020 hearing, may be read here: