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NBSA mulls complaint against Aajtak News channel for insensitive reportage

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New Delhi: The National Broadcasting Standards Authority (NBSA) has decided to consider a Complaint filed by Adv Rajesh Inamdar and Amit Pai on behalf of social activist and film maker Nilesh Navlakha against Aajtak News channel, for its alleged insensitive and disparaging remarks against the Indian Army and its defiance of journalistic ethics while covering late actor Sushant Singh Rajput’s death. 

Secretary General Annie Joseph, on behalf of NBSA has stated that the complaint by Navlakha was forwarded to NBSA and sought suspension or cancellation of Aajtak’s licence for its repeated breach of programme code. 

The Bombay High Court, while hearing plea against media trial by news channels in the Sushant Singh Rajput’s death case, had granted NBSA the liberty to investigate and act on all the private complaints that it has received related to the media trial in the case, and had also asked NBSA to file the status of the complaints in its reply before the court. 

NBSA

The complaint has made note of the channel’s coverage of the situation between India and China, quoting the statements made by news anchors Sweta Singh and her colleague Rohit Sardana during Aajtak’s lengthy segment on the escalated situation in LAC and calling those comments on the Indian Army completely distasteful, disparaging and insensitive.

The following comments were made regarding the “violent face-off” between India and China along the Line of Actual Control during the conversation, Singh states:

“This is the responsibility of the Army. You can’t blame the government for this” and “that Chinese incursion into the Indian Territory is not just government’s fault, but also the Army’s as patrolling the border is not the government’s responsibility.”

“..This isn’t a situation where you ask questions after something has occurred. There are a few questions to be answered here. Firstly, if the People’s Liberation Army entered Indian territory and our soldiers were sleeping, then it’s on the Army and not on the government because the government is not on patrolling duty, the Army is,” said the anchor regarding the “violent face-off” between India and China along the Line of Actual Control. 

aajtak

According to the complainant, such broadcast by the Channel not only attacked the sovereignty and integrity of India, the security of the state, public order, decency or morality but also doesn’t fit in the realm of freedom of press in any manner. The channel and the anchors are not an authority or specialist to comment or remark on national security and national unity, and make any decisions on how to defend the nation from external aggression and internal threats. 

“Further, in a tense situation, with the broadcast reaching crores of people, this is a deliberate attempt to spread a negative emption against the Indian Armed forces, and in direct breach of the Programme Code”, the Complaint read.

Regarding the channel’s coverage of Late actor Sushant Singh Rajput’s death, the complaint stated that the channel demonstrated lack of empathy, was at the forefront of insensitive reporting and was outright predatory, in an attempt to garner TRPs defying the journalistic ethics, the programme code and the WHO guidelines. 

The complaint has pointed out following incidents in the reporting of the actor’s suicide which were: 

  • The channel flashed insensitive news ticker. Insensitive comment made by Anchor Chitra Tripathi that said “How did he ‘hit wicket’?” Other such comments like “Sushant zindagi ki pitch par hit-wicket kaise ho gaye”(how did Sushant get ‘hit-wicket’ on life’s pitch).”‘Sushant itne ashant kaise’ (how come Sushant was so restless).
  • The channel reached Rajput’s residence in Patna, with the relentless reporter who kept trying to get a comment from his father, who was clearly too shocked by grief to say anything but the reported still kept bombarding the shell-shocked and traumatic father and his sisters asking them to “shed light on why Sushant took such a step”.
  • Broadcasting photographs of Late Rajput’s corpse from his bedroom on the Channel, without even giving a requisite warning to young and sensitive viewers, was insensitive, indecent, and contrary to the good taste.
  • Aajtak falsely reported on the fake tweets stating that Rajput posted three tweets which he later deleted on June 14, 2020, hours before his death, however, the channel later deleted the tweet and took down the article. The viral fake screenshots claimed that the actor tweeted about the mental health being ignored, how he has been struggling with hardships and also has him bidding goodbye and “ending all this” and hoping that people learn to communicate better.

The complaint also stated that such broadcasts are clearly in breach of journalistic ethics and an offence against public order, and clearly show that Aajtak channel promotes sensationalism, fake news, an anti- national attitude disparaging of the Indian Army. 

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The channel’s reporting, which according to the complainant is against good taste and decency, is defamatory, deliberate, with false and suggestive innuendos and half truth, and affects the integrity of the Country is clearly violative of Section 5 of the Cable Television Networks Act, 1995 , Rule 6 (a), (c), (d), (e), (h), (i), of the Cable Television Networks Rules, 1994 (Rules), the Code of Ethics & Broadcasting Standards and News Broadcasting Standards Regulations. 

– India Legal Bureau

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