The Information & Broadcasting Ministry has issued an advisory to private TV news channels asking them to adhere to the programme code following the reporting on the Russia-Ukraine conflict, certain incidents in North-West Delhi and certain news debates.
“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 that appears to be unauthentic, misleading, sensational, using socially unacceptable language and remarks, offending good taste and decency, as well as obscene and defamatory, all of which appear to be violative of the Programme Code,” the advisory read.
In respect of reporting on the Russia-Ukraine conflict, the ministry has observed that channels have been making false claims and frequently misquoting international agencies and actors.
The Ministry also stated that the channels’ use of “scandalous headlines” and “taglines” is completely unrelated to the news item. Many of the journalists and news anchors on these channels make fabricated and hyperbolic statements intending to incite the audiences.
Some of the examples of scandalous and unethical reporting on the Russia-Ukraine conflict are as below:
(i) One channel aired a news item titled “Ukraine mein Atomi Hadkamp” on April 18, 2022, during which it was mentioned that Russia is planning a nuclear attack on Ukraine. It further sensationalised the situation and mentioned that the attack would happen in the coming few days. The report misquoted international agencies also.
(ii) Another war mongering channel continued to air factless speculations to the point of instilling fear in the minds of viewers, claiming that Russia had set a 24-hour deadline for a nuclear attack on Ukraine.
(iii) One channel aired baseless sensational news on April 18th, 2022 titled “Parmanu Putin se pareshan Zelenski” and “Parmanu action ki chinta Zelenski ko depression” and aired several unverified claims misquoting foreign actors/agencies: “Official Russian Media clearly states that the 3rd World War has started.” The channel even showed footage with false claims that the Russian President was carrying a “nuclear briefcase” with him.
(iv) Another channel misreported and made unverified claims on April 19th. One such claim was-‘US agency CIA believes that Russia will use nuclear weapons on Ukraine’.
(v) One of the channels very frequently made sensational claims about nuclear war; it aired the headline “Nuclear Nisana! Hairatangej khulasa world war ka” on April 19th, 2022. The channel made several of these exploitative and scandalous “war promoting” claims multiple times.
(vi) A prominent channel misguided viewers through misreporting under sensational headlines such as “Ukraine se Putin ka parmanu plan taiyar?” and “Parmanu Hamla hona tay hai?” which was aired on April 19th, 2022. The channel frequently uses such misleading and unrelated taglines in its reporting.
(vii) It was found that one channel ran a sensational speculative commentary on the active conflict during prime time. It used fabricated headlines such as “Atom bomb girega?” Teesra vishwayudh shuru hoga? “on April 19th, 2022
(viii) A channel misguided viewers with unverified and incorrect news about the war. Many of these anchors talk in hyperbole and make factually incorrect comments, even misquoting other sources. One such news item titled “Mariupol Finished! Full and Final” appeared on April 20, 2022.
(ix) One channel aired fabricated pictures claiming to be proof of the upcoming nuclear attack on Ukraine. This completely speculative news story appears to be designed to mislead viewers and cause psychological upheavals within them. The show is titled “Ye Raat Kayamat Wali Hai?” and aired on April 20th, 2022.
Similarly, in the recent incident in North-West Delhi, TV channels’ coverage included elements such as provocative headlines and violent videos, which may incite communal hatred among communities and disrupt peace, law, and order.
Examples of North-West Delhi incident coverage are as below:
(i) “Delhi mein Aman ke dushman kaun?” (Date: 16th April)
(ii) ‘Badi Sajis Dange Wali, Karauli, Khargone vaya Delhi’ (Date: April 17, 2022)
(iii) A channel repeatedly carried a video clip of a man belonging to a specific community carrying a sword.
(iv) Channels claim that this video depicts pre-planned, widespread violence in a religious procession. (19th April, 2022)
(v) Footage titled “Hinsa se ek raat pehle sajis ka video” (April 19, 2022)
(vi) Majoritarian Politics vs. Vote Bank (Date: April 19, 2022)’
The Ministry also stated that channels are disrupting the ongoing investigation process by playing scandalous and unverified CCTV footage and by showing footage of a specific community, thus aggravating the communal tensions.
The Ministry also observed that channels fabricate headlines, sensationalising and giving communal colour to the actions of authorities. It was also observed that in the news, some channels broadcast debates having 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. Some are also found to be disrespectful, passing on insulting remarks or making references to the different religions or faiths or their founders.