Doordarshan and AIR censor opposition leaders, but Modi gets a pass

His speeches on ‘vote jihad’ were broadcast while opposition leaders couldn’t say ‘Muslims’.

WrittenBy:Shivnarayan Rajpurohit
Pictures of Sitaram Yechury, G Devarajan and Narendra Modi.

Yesterday, The Indian Express reported that CPIM general secretary Sitaram Yechury and All India Forward Bloc leader G Devarajan were asked by public broadcasters Doordarshan and All India Radio to drop the phrases “communal authoritarian regime”, “Muslim”, and “draconian laws” from their speeches during broadcast time allotted to them.

Prasar Bharati told the newspaper that Doordarshan and All India Radio follow “conduct rules” laid down by the Election Commission of India.

We looked them up. The EC on March 29 had issued an order on the allotment of time to national and regional parties on Doordarshan and All India Radio. The order included certain “dos and don’ts”, including that broadcasts on Doordarshan and All India Radio “will not permit…attack on religion and communities”.

And do these guidelines only apply to this allotted time period, or to the elections as a whole?

An EC official, on condition of anonymity, said, “The guidelines specifically apply only to the allotted time period. But generally speaking, they cover the whole of the election period…ECI does not have its own code for public broadcasters. In fact, it borrows from the programme codes of public broadcasters.”

We checked the programme code as per the Prasar Bharti Act of 1990 and the EC’s “dos and don’ts” indeed are lifted from it.

But do these conduct rules apply to everyone?

Newslaundry looked at live and pre-recorded election speeches by Prime Minister Narendra Modi that were broadcast on DD News over the last 10 days. Modi used the word “Muslims” at least 11 times in four live and two pre-recorded speeches. His speeches also contained the phrases “vote jihad” and “Ram temple”. 

For instance, we found six speeches on the DD News YouTube channel where Modi used the word “Muslim” at least 11 times, while Yechury and Devarajan weren’t permitted to do so. In this video clip, for instance, Modi refers to “Muslims” three times in eight minutes while speaking at Fatehpur in Uttar Pradesh.

And he made specific insinuations about the community too. He said “wherever there is a Congress government, they have reduced the reservation share of SCs, STs and OBCs and started giving it to Muslims”. In the same clip, he said that in Karnataka, “all Muslims have been turned into OBCs overnight”.

Similarly, DD News aired a clip of Modi in a pre-recorded episode of Do Took, a show hosted by Ashok Shrivastav. Modi said, “When I was CM…the Congress wanted to give 15 percent of the budget to Muslims…I had opposed it then.” To be fair to Shrivastav, he used the word “Muslim”, but later corrected himself by saying “minority” instead.

Then there’s this seven-minute video on DD News, which had Modi saying in Bhadohi: “The Congress prince wants to lock the Ram temple and get the Supreme Court verdict overturned. And they again want to force Ram Lalla to live in a tent.” And this one from Howrah, aired on DD News, which has Modi claiming the opposition will redistribute wealth to those who engage in “vote jihad”.

In other speeches, he attacked Muslims by using other references such as those who engage in “vote jihad”. In Howrah, Modi said the Opposition would redistribute wealth to those who do “vote jihad”. 

Wouldn’t all these references count as an “attack on religion and communities”?

We posed this question to Navneet Sehgal, the chairman of Prasar Bharati. While he did not answer this question, he merely reiterated that Prasar Bharati “works strictly as per Model Code of Conduct issued by the Election Commission”.

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Also see
article imageWhat’s the job of a public broadcaster? For Doordarshan, it’s airing Ram temple’s daily aarti


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