Covid-19: Indian news channels draw apex body's flak for anti-Tablighi Jamaat coverage

AFP file
AFP file

New Delhi - Times Now, News18 Kannada and Suvarna News pulled up for lopsided broadcast

By Joydeep Sen Gupta

Published: Mon 26 Jul 2021, 9:32 PM

The News Broadcasting Standards Authority (NBSA), an apex body of a private association of current affairs and news TV broadcasters in India that was formed in July, 2007, has fined two Kannada news channels — News18 Kannada and Suvarna News — and also censured English TV news channel Times Now for their biased coverage of the Tablighi Jamaat congregation at Nizamuddin in south Delhi in March, 2020.

Tablighi Jamaat, the transnational Islamic missionary movement that has followers in over 80 countries, was branded as the super spreader of SARS-CoV-2, which causes Covid-19, at the outset of the viral outbreak in India by these three TV news channels.

Earlier on June 16, the NBSA had fined News18 Kannada ₹100,000 and Suvarna News ₹50,000 on the basis of complaints filed by the Bengaluru-based Campaign Against Hate Speech (CAHS) in 2020.

The CAHS is run by a group of activists, parents, lawyers and academicians who seek to hold the media accountable.

The errant channels have been found guilty of violating the Code of Ethics and Broadcasting Standards as well as Principles of Self Regularity as enshrined in the NBSA charter.

The NBSA cited two programmes that were aired on News18 Kannada — Do you know how Delhi's Nizamuddin Markaz has spread Covid-19 to the nation? and How many have gone to Delhi’s Jamaat congregation from Karnataka? — on April 1, 2020.

“The tone, tenor and language [of the programmes] was crass, prejudiced and disrespectful,” the NBSA said in its order.

“The programmes were prejudiced, inflammatory, and crossed all boundaries of good taste without concerns for feelings of a religious group. It was aimed at promoting and inciting hatred between communities.”

In the case of Suvarna News, the NBSA took exception to six programmes, which were aired between March 31, 2020, and April 4, 2020.

“The titles of the programmes had an insidious effect which could incite communal violence,” said the NBSA.

Times Now’s Is Tablighi Jamaat wilfully sabotaging India?, which was aired on April 2, 2020, too, came under the NBSA’s lens.

“The manner, tenor and words used by the anchor could have been avoided,” it said.

In June, 2020, the Narendra Modi-led administration had blacklisted over 2,500 Tablighi Jamaat members and banned their entry into India for the next 10 years.

The action was allegedly taken after several state governments shared information with the Modi administration on Tablighi Jamaat members who were found to be illegally staying in mosques and seminaries.

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