Rhetoric of violence propagated by news channel betrays all commitments to media ethics

kya kehta

Letter to Justice (retd) RV Raveendran, chairperson, News Broadcasting Standards Authority, Noida, by the civil rights organization Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP), Mumbai, complaining against Zee News for telecast of programme titled “Kya Kehta Hai India” on June 30, 2018: 

Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP) is a human rights movement dedicated to upholding and defending our fundamental freedoms, in the courts and beyond. With a presence in all states of India, CJP draws its strength from the people who are determined to protect the rights of every individual, especially the weak and marginalised.

CJP has been actively campaigning against Hate Speech. Our objective is to not just bring to light such instances, but also help people understand what constitutes hate speech and how even they can take action against it by filing FIRs. We have pursued our objectives on two fronts; by publishing informative and educative content about hate speech on our website, and by filing complaints and petitions against the perpetrators.

In February 2018, CJP filed a complaint with National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) over violence in Kasganj in Uttar Pradesh, where a Tiranga Yatra was held on January 26, Republic Day. CJP closely monitored the situation, and acquired videos and extracts of Facebook posts suggesting an agenda to inflame communal tensions. In the same month, CJP approached the NHRC with a complaint when we found that in western Uttar Pradesh’s Amroha, social media posts and local newspaper reports found an alleged conspiracy to change the name of the area from Gautam Nagar to Islam Nagar, an attempt at stoking tensions between Dalits and Muslims.

We have been concerned at the increasing attempts by sections of our electronic media to foster dis-harmony, hatred and even incite violence. In this context, your attention is drawn to the programme titled “Kya Kehta Hain India” aired on 30.06.2018 at 8 PM on Zee News Channel.

The same may be viewed here.  A complaint about the same has already been made to Zee Media Corporation’s Legal Head, Mr. Prasanna Raghav (prasanna.raghav@zeeunimedia.esselgroup.com) on July 9, 2018. However, we have received no reply from the Zee Media Corporation so far. Hence, this complaint is being filed within the prescribed time limit to NBSA.

Zee News, a part of Zee Media Corporation, having its address at No. 19, Film City, Sector 16A, NOIDA, 201301, claims that it has more than 150 million viewers. According to the most recent BARC data, Zee News is consistently competing for the top two positions in the TRP and viewership ratings in both urban and rural markets for Hindi news. Its shows reach more than half the total number of Indian houses in urban and rural locations.

The programme, “Kya Kehta Hai India”, shocked our conscience, as communal hate and violence was propagated from a platform provided by Zee News with its complete endorsement and backing, as declared by the voice-over at the beginning of the programme, which called itself the “Constitution” of Zee News.

The show was introduced with Hariom Panwar, a Hindi Veer-Ras poet, who began his poetry recitation with his polarizing views about Kashmir. He claims that he wrote this poem 28 years ago and had read it in front of former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee. In his poetry, he said that the problems in Kashmir can only be solved by the soldiers’ guns. “Indian flags are torn in Kashmir, the murderers of Kashmir are set free, traitors are sent food in the mosque, every house has an AK 56, Death to India is written on the chest of Srinagar. Tell Delhi to give the soldiers two days and whichever house doesn’t have an Indian flag will see the worst,” are some of the lines he read in Hindi.

Dinesh Raghuvanshi, another poet, said that soldiers will enter Pakistan’s houses and kill them there, in his poetry. He challenged Pakistan to fight India and free the Kashmir land it took over in 1948. He added that all the people who are against the Indian army in Kashmir, those people will not just be taped to the bonnet of the car but all four sides. He questioned Kashmiris and asked if they have any respect for the country.

A Kashmiri shawl weaver who voted in the elections for India was tied to an army jeep with a piece of paper stuck to him which said ‘this is the fate of the stone-pelter.’ The army had tied him as a human shield and message against stone-pelters in Kashmir. The poet not only encouraged but propagated such violence against citizens of India due to their ethnic and religious identity.

Dr. Anamika, a poet, had some of the most extreme views. She said that Kashmir breeds traitors who betray the country and bombs are grown in containers that store the saffron spice. She asks in her poetry that for how long the country will keep sending lions for dogfights. “Remove Section 370 and enter every Kashmiri house. Whoever doesn’t hoist the Indian flags, let the heads of those traitors roll,” she says in her poetry.

An elderly poet, Santosh Anand takes the stake and says that stone-pelters need to be taught the final lesson. Such exhortations calling for the killing of fellow human beings and citizens was allowed to be propagated to millions of viewers, spewing hate within households across the country.

Many children were a part of the show on Zee News, which can be seen clearly in the video. A young boy from the audience took the stage to read out his poetry on Indian soldiers. The poetry by all the poets was coloured by the mythology of Lord Ram crossing the sea and burning Lanka. The divisive rhetoric and its encouragement and celebration reflects on the mindset of public violence and lynchings which has emerged as a major law and order challenge for the country. The rhetoric of violence propagated by Zee News through the programme betrays all its commitments to Media Ethics and is exemplary of irresponsibly misusing the power of media.

The News Channel thus has violated the following code of conduct of NBSA:

“To ensure that national security is not violated – as the content broadcasted by the news channel encouraged and promoted violence against a particular community, thus endangering national security. The above-mentioned instances of happenings in the show are proof of the same.”

This hatred keeps growing its tentacles to reach every Indian living room without any opposition and is against the Preambular goal of fraternity and integrity of the nation. Such programmes are aimed at fuelling disharmony within the nation and it undermines the promise of brotherhood, peace and inclusivity on which the Indian nation is premised.

It is therefore requested from NBSA

  • To direct Zee News to telecast a Public Apology at Prime Time, apologising to the whole nation for broadcasting such views/poetry on National news programme that carries such irresponsible, inciteful and violence inducing content which is in breach of the allegiance to media ethics and principles which are supposed to bind and guide them as a responsible news channel.
  • To direct Zee News to not telecast such hateful content again, that violates the fundamental tenets of our constitution which promotes harmony, dialogue and understanding between sections of Indians, and is based on equality and non- discrimination of all.
  • To Direct Zee News to Provide Proportionate Monitory Compensation to be awarded to a Citizen’s Group like CJP battling the vicious politics of hatred.
  • Any other punishment that the Authority deems fit.

Signatories: Anil Dharker, President; Teesta Setalvad, Secretary

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