In a setback to Zee News, the News Broadcasting Standards Authority (NBSA) rejected the broadcaster’s appeal to revise its order where it had asked the channel in September 2016 to pay ₹1lakh as a fine for the report titled ‘Afzal Premi Gang ka Mushaira’ and to tender an apology.
NBSA has asked Zee News to display the apology on February 16, 2018, at 9 pm and deposit ₹1 lakh within seven days. Zee News has been directed to air the text “Zee New regrets the taglines used and views expressed during the broadcast of the programme/news report under the caption “Afzal Premi Gang Ka Mushaira” from March 9, 2016, to March 12, 2016, reporting upon the poetry recital by Prof. Gauhar Raza on March 3, 2016, at the annual Shankar Shad (Indo-Pak) mushaira at New Delhi. Zee News also regrets the description of Prof. Gauhar Raza and the attendees/participants at the event, as “Afzal Premi Gang”. They have been directed to air it in Hindi.
NBSA has directed Zee to remove the video of this programme from all their sites and confirm the removal to NBSA.
“This is a strong order. It gives hope to those who may be wronged by channels in the future and who have been wronged by news channels in the past. The order has created a tradition, but Zee is also trying to create a tradition, which is subversion of the order. NBSA is a body of channels. They have got together and passed the order. If they are going to defy the order, it means that they want to go against their own body. In a civilised society, if such an order has been passed, then they should comply, instead of subverting it,” points our Gauhar Raza, academician and poet.
Raza is unsure of them following the order. “I have no idea. They appealed against the first order to delay the apology. I hope they will comply. It will be good for the Indian media. In a country where there are charges against powerful people who are behind the suspicious death of a judge, this ruling comes as a relief. I’m glad NBSA, as a body, has remained robust and hasn’t buckled under pressure. This is a powerful channel. Any ordinary citizen can be completely crushed by a channel like this,” pointed out Raza.
Zee News had repeatedly telecast a programme titled ‘Afzal Premi Gang ka Mushaira’ between March 9, 2016, and March 12, 2016. Raza had recited three of his poems (on theatre activist Safdar Hashmi and about the murder of two journalists in Iraq in 2010) at the 51st Annual Shankar Shad Mushaira, which is a regular event since 1954, aimed at promoting India-Pakistan relations through a cultural exchange. Zee’s programme had interspersed clips of Raza’s poetry recitation with clips of alleged slogans raised against India by students at Jawaharlal Nehru University in February 2016. The programme had also used various posters of Afzal Guru.
Raza filed a complaint with the NBSA in April 2016 in which he stated that the channel had intended to brand him as anti-national and a supporter of the 2001 Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru by running such a video. It was a joint complaint along with Ashok Vajpeyi, Shubha Mudgal, Sharmila Tagore and Syeda Hameed and Vrinda Grover argued for them.
In its revision petition, Zee News had stated that they had filmed the mushaira event in order to show that “no restraint had been placed on the freedom of speech and expression”. They stated that they too have the freedom of speech and expression in addition to having “editorial direction”.