The News Broadcasting Standards Authority on Friday asked Hindi news channel Zee News to apologise on air for calling poet, scientist and filmmaker Gauhar Raza a member of the “Afzal Premi Gang” in March 2016. The NBSA also asked the media house to pay a fine of Rs 1 lakh.
The agency has asked the news channel to air the corrigendum on September 8, and to remove the footage of the programme from its websites.
In its reportage between March 9, 2016, and March 12, 2016, Zee News had repeatedly telecast a clip of Raza reciting three of his poems at an annual poetry event named Shankar-Shad Mushaira. The poems were about theatre activist Safdar Hashmir and the murder of two journalists in Iraq in 2010.
Zee News ran the clip in a show titled “Afzal Premi Gang ka Mushaira”. The clip was played along with footage of protests that took place at the Jawaharlal Nehru University in February 2016.
Raza had said Zee News had branded him as anti-national and a supporter of the 2001 Parliament attack convict, Afzal Guru. The NBSA has acted on two complaints – one filed by Raza in April 2016, and a joint complaint filed by actor Sharmila Tagore, singer Shubha Mudgal, poet Ashok Vajpeyi and lawyer Vrinda Grover, among others.
In its response to the complaints, Zee News had argued that it had telecast the event to show that there had been “no restraint on the freedom of speech and expression” in the country as alleged by some sections, The Wire reported. “Highlighting the fact that anti-national elements were being made martyrs and being celebrated by a prominent public figure at a public event does not constitute taking a side,” the channel had said.
The NBSA has said that it was “highly inappropriate and derogatory” of Zee News to call the programme “Afzal Premi Gang ka Mushaira”. “The broadcaster had failed to give an opportunity to Professor Gauhar Raza, who was being reported upon, to give his version/views,” it said in its order, according to LiveLaw. “Members present were unanimous in their view that the entire programme was intended to sensationalise the issue in a biased manner, and facts were distorted and manipulated to masquerade as news.”
Zee News argued that it had not violated any of the NBSA guidelines during the telecast. “We are contemplating the legal remedies available to us, including challenging the order passed by NBSA,” Zee Media’s Editor-In-Chief Sudhir Chaudhary told Mint.