News18 India fined for calling those supporting hijab in Karnataka row as ‘Al Qaeda' – The News Minute

NBDSA also asked News18 India to train anchor Aman Chopra on how to conduct debates on sensitive matters.
The News Broadcasting and Digital Standards Authority (NBDSA) on Wednesday imposed a Rs.50,000 fine on News18 India for its coverage of the hijab issue that erupted in Karnataka earlier this year. The NBDSA, an independent body of television news channels, asked the news channel to take down the show stating that the anchor Aman Chopra acted in ‘flagrant disrespect’ and violated Code of Ethics by giving communal colour and linking panellists supporting five young women wanting to wear the hijab in class to the Al-Qaeda.

NBDSA strongly deprecated the tendency of the broadcaster to associate those panellists who were in favour of wearing hijab by the students with Al Qaeda leader Zawahiri and labelling them as ‘Zawahiri gang members’, ‘Zawahiri’s ambassador’, ‘Zawahiri is your God, you are his fan’. NBDSA also did not find any justification in linking those panellists who were supporting Hijab with Al Qaeda. The channel also aired tickers saying ‘AlQaedaGangExposed’, ‘Hijab ka fata poster, nikla Al Qaeda’, ‘Al Zawahiri found behind the hijab’ and ‘Al Qaeda has planned the hijab controversy’.

The order came on a complaint filed on April 10 by Indrajeet Ghorpade, a tech ethics professional who is fighting misinformation on news channels. The show discussed in the complaint was aired on April 6 and the complainant Indrajeet stated that the anchor Aman Chopra referred to Muslim students as ‘hijabi gang’ and ‘hijabwali gazwa gang’ while making ‘false allegations that they had resorted to rioting’.

Indrajeet also listed ‘generalised statements’ made by panellists on the show, and said Chopra asked ‘rhetorical questions’ to ‘imply that Muslim people were safe in India and that it was India which was in danger from the Muslim community’.

“In April 2022, I filed a complaint with the News Broadcasting and Digital Standards Authority (NBDSA) against a severely harmful News 18 India debate programme on the Hijab ban in Karnataka, hosted by a recidivist hatemonger Aman Chopra. The programme attempted to link protesting Muslim girl-students and their supporters with a terrorist organization. The anchor and the panelists promoted dangerous stereotypes against the Muslim community,” Indrajeet Ghorpade stated.

After a hearing was held in September this year where submissions from News18 India were also heard, the NBDSA concluded that it ‘did not have any issue with the subject of the debate’ but the ‘problem lay with the narrative and the tilt that was given to the programme’. It held that the broadcast was ‘violative of the principles relating to Impartiality, Neutrality, Fairness, and Good Taste and Decency, under the Specific Guidelines of Covering Reportage, apart from the Code of Ethics and Broadcasting Standards”.

News18 India was instructed to take down the broadcast from all platforms within seven days. The authority also advised News 18 to train Aman Chopra on how to conduct debates on sensitive matters and warned that he would require Chopra to present himself before the NBDSA in the event of future violations.

In addition, the NBDSA, in a separate case, ordered the removal of News 18 India’s coverage of the Jahangirpuri demolition drive in April 2022 hosted by the same anchor Aman Chopra.The NBDSA found this report to be in violation of its Code of Ethics and expressed strong disapproval against the programme. It ordered the removal of the recording from all digital spaces.

Earlier in 2020, TNM had reported that the Karnataka-based activist group Campaign Against Hate Speech (CAHS) had documented instances of hate speech by Kannada and English media while covering incidents of violence in the state. The CAHS had published a study in September 2020 which stated that individuals are defamed, speculation was published without evidence, and mob justice was encouraged over due process in news reporting.

Read: ‘Tablighi Virus’, ‘Pakistan devils’: Hate speech in Kannada media coverage documented
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