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Major Indian broadcaster fined by regulator

India’s news regulatory body has raised objections against two private networks for airing programmes that allegedly targeted India’s minority Muslims.

The News Broadcasting and Digital Standards Authority (NBDSA), which is a self regulatory body of broadcasters and is currently being headed by former Supreme Court judge AK Sikri, came down heavily on Zee News, News18 India, and Times Now and passed seven orders on Monday flagging “anti-Muslim content” aired by them.

The body found Zee News had “selectively targeted” the Muslim community while broadcasting news on over population in the country, reported LiveLaw.

“While it was permissible for the broadcaster to report the statistics available in the Pew Report which projected the Muslim population to be approximately 310 million by 2050. However, in order to ensure balance and neutrality in the programme, it would have been appropriate for the broadcaster to also report the complete statistics given in the said report which showed that the growth in the Hindu population, would be approximately 1.3 billion by 2050,” it said.

Zee News has been directed by the body to publicly state that the programme which was aired on World Population Day on 11 July was against its Code of Ethics and Broadcasting Standards.

Zee News had said to NBDSA in its submission “that the tickers/headlines used in the impugned telecast were completely neutral, balanced, objective and were used only to set the purpose and object of the debate”.

In another order against Times Now, the body said that the channel had “wrongfully reported” that pro-Pakistan slogans were raised during a protest in Pune by banned organisation Popular Front of India.

The show that aired on 24 September reported that slogans of ‘Pakistan Zindabad’ (Hail Pakistan) were allegedly raised during the protest.

The channel said to NBDSA that its reporting was based on several sources including news agencies like Press Trust of India and ANI as it was not possible to be on the ground for every story.

NBDSA said it should have run a disclaimer on the not being able to verify the authenticity of the show. The network has been asked to pull down the videos of the programme online.

The other five orders by the NBDSA were in connection with shows hosted by News18 India anchor Aman Sharma which the body found to be objectionable and including religious undertones.

The complainant referred to a show on 18 January last year in which Chopra made statements that allegedly maligned the Muslim community.

“The entire premise of the show revolved around creating a negative image of the Muslim community to instigate the members of the Hindu community to develop hatred for Muslims,” the complaint said.

The NBSDA order said that the show was not appropriate.

“By starting the debate on the premise that 20 per cent people were ganging up against Hindus constituting 80 per cent, the anchor had given the debate a thrust, which is communal in nature and not appropriate,” the order said.

The broadcaster denied the allegations to the NBSDA made in the complaints and clarified that its programme was entirely consistent with the applicable NBDSA’s guidelines/advisories and applicable laws.

The broadcaster said it “had decided to conduct a debate on this topic since certain political representatives /people had made statements against a particular community (‘Hindus’) who were subsequently chosen by certain political parties to stand as their representatives in the election”.

The NBDSA issued a warning to the broadcaster and asked it to pay a fine of Rs 50,000 (around £502).

Last month the Supreme Court, while hearing a batch of petitions on hate speech, said that anchors who try to create divisions in society through their shows should be taken off air. Independent

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