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Government appears upset about media blaming Islam, Muslims for Delhi riot

The government advisory did not name any religion, but the allusion is clear, as Hinduism does not have a founder whom the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting wants television channels to respect

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The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting has advised private television channels to avoid “sensational” and “provocative” coverage of the Jahangirpuri (Delhi) riot and the Ukraine-Russia conflict. A government advisory issued today, replete with grammatical errors, read: “It has, however, been found that in the recent past, several satellite TV channels have carried out coverage of events and incidents in a manner which (sic) appears to be unauthentic, misleading, sensational and using socially unacceptable language and remarks, offending good taste and decency, and obscene and defamatory and having communal overtones, all of which appear to be violative of the Programme Code and infringement of the provisions of sub-section (2) of Section 20 of the aforementioned Act. In particular, attention is invited to reporting on the Russia-Ukraine conflict, certain incidents in North-West Delhi and of certain news debates.”

The government advisory said channels were making false claims and “misquoting international agencies/actors” on the Ukraine war and that they used “scandalous headlines/taglines” completely unrelated to news items. “Many of the journalists and news anchors of these channels made fabricated and hyperbolic statements intending to incite the audiences,” it said.

“One channel aired a news item, ‘Ukraine men atomi hadkamp (Nuclear bomb scare in Ukraine)’, on 18 April 2022, during which (sic) it mentioned that Russia is (sic) planning a nuclear attack on Ukraine. It further sensationalised the situation and mentioned that the attack will (sic) happen in the coming few days. The report misquoted international agencies also.

“Another channel indulged in war-mongering continues to air fact-less speculations to an extent that had the tendency to infuse fear in the minds of viewers as it claimed that Russia has given a 24 hours deadline for the nuclear attack on Ukraine,” the government advisory noted.

The government’s advisory also flagged television headlines such as “Delhi men aman ke dushman kaun? (who is the enemy of peace in Delhi)”, observing that a channel had repeatedly carried a video clipping of a man carrying a sword. “Channels claim that this video depicts that it was pre-planned to spread violence in a religious procession,” it said.

While the government did not mention a particular religion, the indication is clear because Hinduism does not have a “founder” towards whom the ministry hopes news mediums will be reverential. Sample this part of the advisory that cites a television debate titled “Vote Bank Vs Majoritarian Politics” aired on 19 April. The I&B ministry here disapproved of the use of “unparliamentary, provocative and socially unacceptable language, communal remarks and derogatory references which may have a negative psychological impact on viewers and may also incite communal disharmony and disturb the peace at large” in debates on news channels. Some channels were “found to be disrespectful, passing on insulting remarks or giving reference to the different religions or faiths or their founders”, according to the advisory.

The advisory said the government expressed serious concern about the flagged issues and asked channels to “immediately refrain from publishing and transmitting any content which is violative of the aforementioned provisions of The Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act, 1995”.

“A news channel broadcast a programme titled “Hunkar” on 20 April 2022. During the debate, several speakers used unparliamentary and derogatory language towards (sic) each other. It was also found that the overall tenor and tonality of the show remains [sic] very aggressive and disturbing. Such ambience has a tendency to negatively impact the viewers, especially children and may have long-lasting psychological distress and subliminal impact on them,” the government advisory said further.

The ministry advisory also said a journalist “used instigating statements and derogatory references” on 15 April during prime time.

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