Television news channel Aaj Tak is back in the news for all the wrong reasons. This time it is a controversial headline.
On October 16, the Supreme Court concluded the hearing of Ayodhya Title dispute case after hearing arguments of all parties for 40 days.
On October 15, around 7 PM Aaj Tak broadcast a show with the headline, Janambhoomi hamari, Ram humare, namaz wale kaha se padhare’ (The birthplace is ours, Ram is ours, where did the Mosque-waalahs come from?)
Twitter users were quick to slam the news channel for propagating communal hatred.
On October 18, Activist Saket Gokhale has file a First Information Report with the Uttar Pradesh police for spreading communal hatred.
“I've registered an FIR with UP Police against Aaj Tak, NOIDA (with FIR number 045399/2019) for spreading communal hatred. I'm also lodging a complaint with the NBSA against Aaj Tak for violation of the authority's guidelines,” tweeted Gokhale.
Earlier on October 16, Gokhale had asked Aaj Tak to issue a formal apology and asked it to delete the tweet of the headline. He warned them of legal consequences if his demand was not heeded to.“Ok Aaj Tak and Anjana Om Kashyap: You have 24 hrs to issue an apology & delete this tweet promoting communal disharmony & hatred. Else, I PROMISE u that u will regret the legal consequences for a long long time. Read IPC 153(A) & 295(A). Talk to ur lawyers. Enough is enough,” Saket tweeted.
The Hindi news channel didn’t delete the tweet and Saket Gokhale subsequently went on and sent a legal notice to Aaj Tak. He said that this is ‘a clear contempt of court since it publicly endorses and supports the claim of one of the parties over another’.
‘Your channel has spread communal disharmony with this piece of content as well as made an attempt to incite communal hatred through an openly divisive communication of this nature,’ the letter reads.
Saket further requested the channel within 24 hours to delete the tweet and issue a public apology on your channel as well as on twitter. The channel should inform the plaintiff about the internal action initiation against those that were responsible for this content.
If the request is not made Saket has warned the channel of legal action against Supriya Prasad, Managing Editor and the channel under IPC 1860, CrPC 1973, the contempt of Courts Act 1971.
It is also important to recall here that News Broadcasting Standards Authority (NBSA) has advised all television channels broadcasting the Supreme Court hearing on the Ayodhya matter to refrain from showing any archival footage of the demolition of the Babri Masjid and ‘exercise caution’ while reporting on the issue.
In a two page advisory, the authority, a self regulating body for news channels, asked the channels to ensure that no speculative news was telecast on the impending judgement.
“For clarity and adherence, it is emphasised that programmes/ telecast should not speculate on issues relating to the Ayodhya judgement or its repercussions,” the authority said in its advisory. It also asked the broadcasters to ensure that no celebratory or protest visuals related to Ayodhya were aired.
“No footage of the demolition of the Babri Masjid is to be shown in any news item relating to the Ayodhya matter,” the NBSA said in its advisory. The authority has prescribed that news organisations should vet and clear the reports on the issue at the highest editorial level. The reporting should not give “any impression of bias or prejudice in favour of, or against any community,” it advised. Even during debates on air, care ought to be taken to ensure that no extreme views were telecast, the NBSA said. “Debates which are provocative and inflammatory and likely to create tension in the public should be avoided,” the authority said.