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News broadcasters authority asks Zee News to pay fine, air apology for 2016 report

LiveMint logoLiveMint 01-09-2017 Harveen Ahluwalia

Hindi news channel Zee News has been asked by the News Broadcasting Standards Authority (NBSA) to pay a fine of Rs1 lakh and apologize on air for a news report it aired in March 2016. NBSA is the self-regulatory complaints redressal body of the News Broadcasters Association which represents private television news channels.

In the report titled Afzal Premi Gang ka Mushaira the channel had called Urdu poet and scientist Gauhar Raza anti-national and a supporter of Afzal Guru, the 2001 Parliament attack convict who was hanged in 2013. The Zee Media Corp. Ltd-owned news channel had aired one of the poetry recitals of Raza interspersed with the footage of the controversial Jawaharlal Nehru University or JNU protests of February 2016.

The channel has been asked to air the apology on 8 September and also remove the video of the programme if it is hosted on the website of Zee News (or any other links).

Acting on two complaints—one filed by Raza himself in April 2016 and the other a joint complaint filed by actor Sharmila Tagore, singer Shubha Mudgal, poet Ashok Vajpeyi and writer Syeda Hameed—justice R.V. Raveendran, chairperson of the body, in a detailed order dated 31 August said that the channel had breached the NBSA guidelines relating to accuracy, impartiality and neutrality.

“The broadcaster had failed to give an opportunity to Professor Gauhar Raza, who was being reported upon, to give his version/views; broadcasting a programme using the footage of JNU incidents with the poetry recital of Raza and giving title to the programme as ‘Afzal Premi Gang ka Mushaira’ was highly inappropriate and derogatory as mere reference by Prof. Gauhar Raza while reciting poetry to ‘Kanhaiya’, ‘Nehru University’ and ‘Rohit Vemula’, could not be a ground to brand the poet, the organizers of Mushaira and the audience as Afzal Premi Gang”, the order said.

The order added that the show was intended “to sensationalize the issue in a biased manner and the facts were distorted and manipulated to masquerade as news.”

The channel has denied any wrongdoing and violation of guidelines. “Our company has not violated any of the guidelines issued by NBSA during telecast of news report related to Mr. Gauhar Raza. We are contemplating the legal remedies available to us including challenging the order passed by NBSA,” said Sudhir Chaudhary, editor-in-chief at Zee Media.

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