The News Broadcasting and Digital Standards Authority has imposed a penalty of Rs 50,000 on television channel News18 India for its coverage of the Karnataka hijab ban case, reported Live Law on Wednesday.
The hijab ban controversy had erupted in Decemebr after a group of Muslim students of the Government Women’s Pre-University College in Karnataka’s Udupi city were not allowed to attend classes for wearing the headscarf.
As the matter snowballed, the Karnataka government on February 5 issued an order stating that students would have to wear the uniform prescribed by their schools and pre-university colleges. The Karnataka High Court upheld the ban in March and in October, the Supreme Court delivered a split verdict on petitions challenging the decision.
The News Broadcasting and Digital Standards Authority order has been passed on a complaint filed on April 10 by a man identified as Indrajeet Ghorpade, reported News Laundry. The show in question was aired on April 6.
Ghorpade alleged that News18 India anchor Aman Chopra had referred to Muslim students as “hijabi gang” and “hijabwali gazwa gang” while making “false allegations that they had resorted to rioting”.
After getting a response on the complaint from News18 India in September, the news regulator directed the channel to take down the show from its website and all its platforms within seven days.
The order stated that the News Broadcasting and Digital Standards Authority could not find any justification for linking the panelists speaking against against the ban on the show to terrorist outfit Al-Qaeda, by running graphics that read “#AlQaedaGangExposed”, “Hijab ka fata poster, nikla Al Qaeda” and “Al Qaeda has planned the hijab controversy”.
The news regulator also noted that the show associated the panelists with former Al-Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri, calling them “Zawahiri gang member” and “Zawahiri’s ambassador”.
The News Broadcasting and Digital Standards Authority rejected the channel’s response, claiming that the terms had been used for those allegedly inciting supporters of hijab, and was not for the students protesting against the ban.
The news regulator said that not only did Chopra disrespect the Code of Ethics and Broadcasting, he also failed to abide by directives of the Bombay High Court in the Nilesh Navalakha versus Union of India case, which asked anchors to apply their mind and prevent the programme from drifting beyond the permissible limits, including by muting the speaker if needed.
The News Broadcasting and Digital Standards Authority said that the anchor did not stop the panelists from crossing the boundary and allowed them to express extremist views that could adversely impact communal harmony in the country.
The news regulator also said that if such violations continue, it will ask Chopra to appear before it.
In another order, the news regulator pulled up News18 India for its coverage of the Jahangirpuri demolitions, saying that had also violated the Code of Ethics and Broadcasting Standards.
The matter is related to the order by Bharatiya Janata Party-controlled North Delhi Municipal Corporation to raze several Muslim-owned shops and properties in Jahangirpuri in April, claiming that they were illegally built. The drive began four days after communal violence erupted in the locality when a Hindu religious procession armed with guns and swords passed a mosque.
The demolition drive was, however, stayed by the Supreme Court. However, an hour after the court had ordered municipal authorities to stop the demolitions and maintain the “status quo”, a bulldozer had razed the entrance gate and stairs leading into a mosque in Jahangirpuri.