In his show last October, News18 India’s Aman Chopra “targeted, vilified and castigated the entire Muslim community for the actions of a few miscreants” and gave an incident a “communal tilt”.
This was the conclusion of the News Broadcasting & Digital Standards Authority in an order dated February 27. News18 India was fined Rs 25,000, warned not to repeat the offence, and directed to take down videos of the broadcast in question.
It was among by the NBDSA for “communal” programming on News18 India. All five primetime shows were anchored by Chopra.
In all five cases, News18 India was found to have violated the Code of Ethics & Broadcasting Standards.
The first show aired on October 4 last year and featured Chopra exhorting viewers to count along while airing footage of the police caning a group of Muslim men tethered to a pole. The men were accused of seeking to stop a garba function. Chopra described their caning as “dandiya”.
Newslaundry had reported on the show in our Bloodlust TV series. .
The NBDSA acted on the basis of two complaints filed by one Indrajeet Ghorpade and the Citizens for Justice and Peace. The NBDSA said News18 India had failed to condemn the police violence, and that its tickers “raised rhetorical questions” that “gave the impression that all Muslim men had attended garba celebrations only with ulterior motives”.
It specifically flagged some statements made by Chopra such as “Gujarat Police ne unke saath dandiya khela,” “Gujarat police ne unka ilaaj kia,” “Garbe mei itna interest kyun hai Muslim yuvakon ko? Koi aur tylohar mein itna interest nahin hain. Lekin pechan chupakar kyun jaate hai,” and “Aisa kya mil raha hai garbe mei ki Islam ki rigidness khatam ho jati hai.”
The aired on September 29, 2022 and was also about Muslim “miscreants” attending garba events with “ulterior motives” – based on “viral videos from Ahmedabad, Indore and Akola”.
The complaint, filed by Ghorpade, said the show attempted to “portray all Muslim men as criminals trying to harm/deceive Hindu women”. “The entire Muslim community and in particular the men were demonised in the impugned broadcast,” the complaint said.
The NBDSA said News18 India had “merely reported the said incidents as transpired” but the language used in the tickers “gave a communal tilt to the broadcast” and “created an impression” that men from one community were trying to deceive women from another.
News18 India was directed to remove the videos of the broadcast from the public domain. The channel was also cautioned against “using such tickers in future” and to avoid “giving a communal colour while reporting such incidents”.
The aired on August 5 and dealt with the “sharp rise” in Muslim population in border areas of Uttar Pradesh and Bangladesh. The complaint, filed by Ghorpade, claimed Chopra demonised Muslims to “portray them as intruders” and to spotlight the growth in population as a “national security concern”.
The NBDSA in its decision said there would have been “no problem” if News18 India had “raised only national security concerns in respect of demographic changes around the border areas of the country due to infiltration” and had sought the government’s response on this. Instead, the channel “attempted to communalise the issue” without seeking “accountability” from the government.
It also took “serious objection to the offensive and inflammatory tickers” such as “#BorderParPanIslam”, “Border par Islamikaran pura?”, “Border par badhe ‘bhaijan’, Khatarnak he Plan?” and “Border par Ghazwa-e-Barood bichh gya he”.
Noting that the programme had “crossed the Lakshman Rekha”, the NBDSA imposed a fine of Rs 20,000, said videos of the show must be taken down, and warned News18 India not to repeat the same mistakes in future.
The fourth show aired on January 18 last year in the context of UP chief minister Adityanath’s . Complaints were filed by Citizens for Justice and Peace and one Anuj Dubey.
The NBDSA said the show had “religious undertones” and was “communal in nature and not appropriate” because Chopra started the debate “on the premise that 20% people were ganging up against Hindus constituting 80%”. It also pulled up Chopra for making statements like “Ye 80 k khilaf hai mahagathbandhan” and “Wo keh ray lwi kay unhey Hinduo sey problem hai aur wo 80 kay khilaaf hai”, saying an anchor must be “objective, impartial and neutral”.
News18 India was fined Rs 50,000 and told to remove videos of the broadcast. It was also instructed to publicise the NBDSA’s orders on its ticker once every hour for 24 hours from 8 am on March 6 to 8 am on March 7.
Finally, the , which aired on July 28 last year and was about the murder of Praveen Nettaru in Dakshina Kannada. The complaint, filed by Utkarsh Mishra, said Chopra “conducted a media trial” and debated theories that “supported the claim that the murders were due to the rise of the ‘sar tan se juda gang’”.
The NBDSA said Chopra, “instead of blaming a few miscreants for the murders and violence, in fact blamed the religion for the violence that occurred”. Chopra’s “agenda in this behalf was clear” and by interrupting a panelist and not allowing them to speak, Chopra “did not allow the debate to go on objectively”.
So, News18 India was instructed to take down videos of the show and “not repeat” the violations in future.