The News Broadcasting Standards Authority on Saturday rejected Hindi news channel Zee News’ appeal against an order, asking it to apologise for calling poet, scientist and filmmaker Gauhar Raza (pictured above) a member of the “Afzal Premi Gang” in March 2016.

Zee News has been asked to run an apology to Raza at 9 pm on February 16, and deposit Rs 1 lakh within a week, lawyer Vrinda Grover posted on Facebook. “Zee was asked to do the same earlier but they had gone into an appeal,” she said. “The appeal stands rejected.”

The channel will have to run the following statement: “Zee News regrets the taglines used and views expressed during the broadcast of the programme/news report ‘Afzal Premi Gang ka Mushaira’ from 9.3.2016 to 12.3.2016, reporting upon the poetry recital by Prof Gauhar Raza on 5.3.2016 at the annual Shankar-Shad (Indo-Pak) Mushaira at New Delhi. Zee News also regrets the description of Prof Gauhar Raza and the attendees/participants at the event as ‘Afzal Premi Gang’.”

This apology should be written in large font in Hindi and run with a clearly audible voice-over, the NBSA instructed.

The News Broadcasting Standards Authority's order rejecting Zee News' appeal. (Photo courtesy: Vrinda Grover)
The News Broadcasting Standards Authority's order rejecting Zee News' appeal. (Photo courtesy: Vrinda Grover)

The poems Raza had recited at the annual event were about theatre activist Safdar Hashmi and the murder of two journalists in Iraq in 2010. Zee News, however, ran the clip in a show titled “Afzal Premi Gang ka Mushaira” along with footage of protests that took place at the Jawaharlal Nehru University in February 2016.

Raza filed a complaint with the NBSA in April 2016 in which he said that the news channel had branded him as anti-national and a supporter of the 2001 Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru. Actor Sharmila Tagore, singer Shubha Mudgal, poet Ashok Vajpeyi and Vrinda Grover, among others, had also filed a joint complaint.

In its defence, 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.