#lovejihad violations: 1 lakh fine for Times Now, Rs 50,000 for News 18, warning for Aaj Tak

NBDSA orders all 3 TV channels to take down shows spreading communal disharmony

A warning was issued to Aaj Tak for a programme anchored by Sudhir Chaudhary (pictured), which generalised acts of violence during Ram Navami (photo: @ambedkariteIND/X)
A warning was issued to Aaj Tak for a programme anchored by Sudhir Chaudhary (pictured), which generalised acts of violence during Ram Navami (photo: @ambedkariteIND/X)

NH Digital

The News Broadcasting & Digital Standards Authority (NBDSA) on Thursday, 29 February, ordered several television news channels, including News18 India, Times Now Navbharat and Aaj Tak, to take down videos of five shows identified as spreading hatred.

Two of the three were also fined for their roles in spreading communal disharmony. Times Now Navbharat has been fined Rs 1 lakh, News 18 India has to pay a fine of Rs 50,000 and a warning has been issued to Aaj Tak. The channels have been directed to remove the offending programmes from their websites and channels within seven days.

The regulatory body took action based on complaints by activist Indrajeet Ghorpade.

In the Times Now Navbharat programme, anchor Himanshu Dixit targeted the Muslim community and termed inter-faith relationships generically as "love jihad".

News 18 India was penalised for three shows in 2022, two of which were anchored by Aman Chopra and one by Amish Devgan, where they communalised the murder of Shraddha Walker by her live-in partner Aftab Poonawala in 2022 as an example of “love jihad”.

A warning was issued to Aaj Tak for a programme anchored by Sudhir Chaudhary, which generalised acts of violence during Ram Navami in a targeted communal fashion.

The complainant cited violations of the Code of Ethics & Broadcasting Standards regarding impartiality, objectivity, neutrality and accuracy. The NBDSA also cited breaches of journalistic guidelines related to the prevention of hate speech and avoiding communal narratives in reporting.

The order said:

The term "love jihad" should not be used loosely and should be used with great introspection in future broadcasts as religious stereotyping can corrode the secular fabric of the country, cause irreparable harm to a community and create religious intolerance or disharmony.
News Broadcasting & Digital Standards Authority (NBDSA)

'On a perusal of the impugned broadcast, it appears that at the very beginning of the broadcast, the anchor has concluded that men from a certain community lured women from another community by hiding their religious identity and then committed violence or murders against such women, and every such violence or murder committed on women of a certain community is related to "love jihad",' said the news regulatory body in assessing the Times Now Navbharat programme in question.

On Sudhir Chaudhary’s programme, the NBDSA observed that there would have been no problem with the broadcast if the broadcaster had confined its analysis to the incidents of communal violence.

'However, by broadcasting the following tickers “today Muslim areas, tomorrow Muslim country”, “today area, tomorrow district, and then country” and “have you heard of Sikh or Parsi area" during the programme, a completely different colour had been given to the programme,' said the order.

The NBDSA also observed that the media has the right to conduct debates on any topic of its choice. However, programmes targeting an entire community for the acts of a few individuals was not acceptable.

The NBDSA further noted that during discussions, when some of the panellists expressed concerns about the communal angle, the anchor "shouted them down and did not allow them to express their views".

The NBDSA also observed that there may be some instances where boys from a particular community married Hindu girls. However, the NBDSA order pointed out that a few such instances should not lead to making generalised statements regarding inter-faith marriages by giving it a communal colour:

Every citizen, from whichever religion, has a right to marry a person of his/her choice, irrespective of the religion to which he/she belongs. Merely because a Hindu girl married a boy of another faith would not tantamount to love jihad unless it is established that such a Hindu girl was duped or coerced into the marriage. Further, because of few incidents of such forced marriages, an entire community cannot be branded.

'Thus, it was not proper to generalize the incidents with tickers such as "Love toh bahana haiHindu betiyan nishana hai ['love' is a ploy to target Hindu daughters]", "jihadiyon se beti bachao [save our daughters from jihadis]",' stated the order.

The NBDSA believes that had the incidents been discussed by themselves, the programmes would have remained within the norms of journalistic freedom: 'It is the generalisation of these incidents by targeting the entire community, which is found to be violative of the principles of impartiality, objectivity and neutrality under the Code of Ethics and Broadcasting Standards ("Code of Ethics") and the specific guidelines covering reportage relating to racial and religious harmony.

'In the impugned broadcast, the anchor had also violated clauses (f) and (h) of the specific guidelines for anchors conducting programmes, including debates,' stated the order.

Copy of the NBDSA order
Copy of the NBDSA order

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