The Editors Guild of India on Wednesday said that the irresponsible conduct of some news channels has resulted in embarrassment for the country.
The journalists’ body made the statement in relation to the derogatory remarks against Prophet Muhammad made by now-suspended Bharatiya Janata Party spokesperson Nupur Sharma during a debate on Times Now television channel on May 26.
Several Muslim countries have summoned Indian envoys to condemn her statements. Social media users in some of these countries also called for a boycott of Indian products.
On June 3, the comments also sparked violence in Kanpur, which left at least 40 persons injured.
“The incident that caused unnecessary embarrassment to the country could have been avoided if some of the TV outlets had been mindful of the nation’s constitutional commitment to secularism, as well as the journalistic ethics and guidelines that the Press Council of India has issued to handle a volatile communal situation,” the Editors Guild said on Wednesday.
The press body said that certain news channels have have deliberately created circumstances that target vulnerable communities.
“[The Editors Guild] demands that these channels pause and take a critical look at what they have done by giving legitimacy to divisive and toxic voices that has made the national discourse coarse and the gap between communities unbridgeable,” it said.
Last month, the Union Ministry for Information and Broadcasting criticised some coverage by television news channels of the violence in Delhi’s Jahangirpuri and the Ukraine crisis.
The ministry, without naming the channels, had said that they ran “provocative headlines and videos of violence that may incite communal hatred” while covering the Jahangirpuri communal violence. On the coverage of the Ukraine conflict, the ministry had said that some channels ran “scandalous headlines” that were completely unrelated to the news item.
The Centre had urged television channels to strictly abide by the Programme Code, which requires channels to avoid airing content that “offends against good taste and decency” and targets religions or communities, among other things.