The National Broadcasting and Digital Standards Authority has ordered news channel Times Now to take down one of its debate shows aired in February last year from its website and social media handles for violating the news regulator’s code of ethics, Live Law reported on Thursday.
The show on activist Teesta Setalvad’s visit to Shaheen Bagh in Delhi, a prominent site of protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act was “devoid of objectivity”, the news regulator said in the order passed on November 13.
The National Broadcasting and Digital Standards Authority observed that Times Now had selectively used parts of Setalvad’s speech at Shaheen Bagh to form a “particular narrative” about her. Times Now referred to Setalvad as a “Modi baiter”, even as she had not made any statements against the prime minister in her speech, the news regulator noted.
“Using bold headlines and attributing her [Setalvad] to be ‘Modi Baiter’ seems out of context and doesn’t appear to be an objective assessment of her speech, lacks neutrality and accuracy,” the order stated.
The news regulator directed Times Now to send a written confirmation of compliance of the order within seven days. However, the clip is still available on Times Now’s YouTube channel, 13 days after the order was passed.
The National Broadcasting and Digital Standards Authority’s order was based on a complaint filed against Times Now in April 2020 by the Citizens for Justice and Peace, a human rights organisation. Setalvad is the secretary of the non-government body.
The organisation had accused the news channel of running a smear campaign against Setalvad. It said that Times Now falsely claimed that the activist had deputed people to speak to the protestors at Shaheen Bagh.
“The journalist [who hosted the show] also made utterly baseless claims such as ‘Teesta ‘tuition’ scuttles talks’, referring to the mediation proceedings that took place in Shaheen Bagh with Supreme Court- appointed mediators,” the complainant said, according to Live Law.
In its response, Times Now claimed that it had not made any derogatory remarks about Setalvad and that she cannot be “thin-skinned” being a public figure, Live Law reported.
The National Broadcasting and Digital Standards Authority held that a broadcaster has the right to report on any subject, but it must adhere to regulatory guidelines. It added that anchors must follow the principles of impartiality and accuracy.
“The anchor must avoid pushing any agenda during the debate,” the news regulator said. “Further, the person being reported on should either be made part of the debate, or his/her views should be reported.”
This is the second time this month that the news regulator has pulled up Times Now.
In an order passed on November 19, the news regulator said that Times Now had violated the basic principles of its Code of Ethics and Broadcasting Standards in two debate shows on the violence that erupted in Delhi in February last year. The order asked Times Now to take down these two shows from its website and social media accounts.