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I&B flags coverage of Jahangirpuri, Ukraine: misleading and provocative

A Ministry of Information and Broadcasting advisory asked channels to ‘immediately refrain from publishing and transmitting any content which is violative of the aforementioned provisions of The Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act, 1995’.

Written by Anisha Dutta | New Delhi |
Updated: April 24, 2022 1:29:59 am
A view of the anti-encroachment drive in Jahangirpuri, New Delhi. (Express Photo by Praveen Khanna)

CITING COVERAGE of the violence in Delhi’s Jahangirpuri last week, the Russia-Ukraine conflict and “certain news debates”, the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (I&B) issued a strong advisory to all private television channels on Saturday.

The ministry said the coverage “appeared to be unauthentic, misleading, sensational and using socially unacceptable language and remarks, offending good taste and decency, obscene and defamatory, and having communal overtones”.

While the advisory listed specific instances, it did not name any channel.

“Incorrect and misleading information was being shown against friendly nations also and the way the news was being shown… the ministry has issued a notice on that and it has also warned TV channels not to repeat such mistakes in the future,” Union I&B Minister Anurag Thakur said.

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On the Jahangirpuri violence, the I&B advisory said the channels used “provocative headlines and videos of violence that may incite communal hatred… and disrupt peace”; “scandalous and unverified CCTV footages” which could “disrupt the ongoing investigation process”; showed “footages of a specific community thus aggravating the communal tensions”; “fabricated headlines, sensationalising and giving communal colours to the actions of authority”.

The ministry flagged headlines on some channels like “Delhi mein aman ke dushman kaun?” (Who is the enemy of peace in Delhi?); and “Badi saazish dange wali, Karauli, Khargone vaya Delhi” (Big conspiracy of riots, Karauli, Khargone via Delhi).

“A channel repeatedly carried a video clipping of a man belonging to a specific community carrying a sword,” it said. Footage headlined “Hinsa se ek raat pehle saazish ka video” (video of conspiracy night before violence) was aired by some to claim that “it was pre-planned to spread violence in a religious procession,” it said.

The ministry also objected to a news debate titled “vote bank vs majoritarian politics” aired by a channel on April 19.

Citing Section 6 (1) (c) of the Programme Code barring criticism of friendly countries, the advisory said that with regard to the Ukraine-Russia conflict, “channels have been making false claims and frequently misquoting international agencies”; using “scandalous headlines/ taglines that are completely unrelated to the news item”; and “many of the journalists and news anchors of these channels made fabricated and hyperbolic statements intending to incite the audiences”.

“One channel aired a news item ‘Ukraine mein atomi hadkamp’ (Atom bomb scare in Ukraine)… during which it mentioned that Russia is planning a nuclear attack on Ukraine. It further sensationalised the situation and mentioned that the attack will happen in the coming few days. The report misquoted international agencies also,” it said.

“Another channel indulged in war mongering… factless speculation to an extent that had the tendency to infuse fear… as it claimed that Russia has given a 24-hour deadline for the nuclear attack on Ukraine,” said the advisory.

It listed use of headlines/ taglines like “Parmanu Putin se pareshan Zelenski” (Zelenski worried about nuclear Putin); “Parmanu action ki chinta se Zelenski ko depression” (Zelenski in depression over worry of nuclear action); “Ukraine se Putin ka parmanu plan taiyar?” (Putin’s nuclear plan against Ukraine ready?) and “unverified claims misquoting” international agencies that World War-III has started.

One channel showed footage with false claims that the Russian President was carrying a “nuclear briefcase” with him, it said. “Another channel misreported and made unverified claims (that) ‘US agency CIA believes that Russia will use nuclear weapons on Ukraine’… One of the channels frequently made sensational claims of nuclear war… The channel made several of these exploitative and scandalous ‘war promoting’ claims multiple times,” it said.

“It was found that one channel ran a sensational speculative commentary on the active conflict during prime time. It used fabricated headlines such as ‘atom bomb girega? Teesra vishwa yudh shuru hoga?’ (Atom bomb will fall? Third world war will start?) on April 19… Anchors of many of these channels talk in hyperbole and make factually wrong comments even misquoting other sources. One such news titled ‘Mariupol finished! Full and final’ on April 20,” it said.

The advisory said a journalist, while reporting for a channel from Mykolaiv, made several comments that seemed to be promoting war like “Russia parmanu hamla kab karega? Kahan karega?” (When and where will Russia’s nuclear strike happen).

The ministry said some channels also broadcast debates having “unparliamentary, provocative and socially unacceptable language, communal remarks and derogatory references which may have a negative psychological impact on viewers and may also incite communal disharmony and disturb the peace at large”.

“Some are also found to be disrespectful, passing on insulting remarks or giving reference to the different religions or faiths or their founders,” it said.

“A news channel broadcast a programme titled ‘Hunkar’ on April 20. During the debate, several speakers used unparliamentary and derogatory language towards each other. It was also found that the overall tenor and tonality of the show remains very aggressive and disturbing. Such ambience has a tendency to negatively impact the viewers especially children and may have a long lasting psychological distress and subliminal impact on them,” it said.

It said that during a prime time show aired on April 15, a journalist of a channel used instigating statements and derogatory references.

Expressing “serious concern” over such incidents, the ministry “strongly advised” the channels “to immediately refrain from publishing and transmitting any content which is violative of… The Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act, 1995 and the rules thereunder”.

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