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SYNOPSIS

Recently, NBSA (News Broadcasting Standards Authority) observed that some News Broadcasters while using different offensive and derogatory headlines and images tried to create a ‘drug circle gang' impression on viewers about some Bollywood celebrities including Rakul Preet Singh, however, these taglines were having no connection with the news programs being telecasted on TV.

INTRODUCTION

"Journalists should be watchdogs, not lapdogs" -Newton Lee

News Broadcasting Standards Authority (NBSA) has ruled in favor of actor Rakul Preet Singh after she filed a case accusing many television channels of reports linking her to drugs and the Sushant Singh Rajput case. It was reported that NBSA has told Zee News, Zee 24, Zee Hindustani to air an apology to the actor on 17th of December along with that channels such as Times Now, India Today, Aaj Tak, etc have been told to remove links of reports against Rakul Preet Singh.

As the information displayed by aforesaid channels is unverified and incorrect and there is no particular evidence or proof that can prove that a Bollywood actress is connected with drugs and Sushant's murder case. The News Authority directed the above-mentioned channels to remove the links, images, and offensive videos if it is still available on any Website or YouTube, etc. The channels have been provided with a time of 7 days to remove the same although, on the other hand, the three above-mentioned channels of Zee Networks have been asked to apologize for the actress.

The reports were displayed by the channels while reporting the Sushant murder case, although there seems no visible connection or interlink between two of the matters. The channels also claimed that Rhea Chakraborty in a statement to NCB (Narcotics Control Bureau) told that Rakul was involved in drugs matter. However, surprisingly the authority denied all the information claimed by these channels while linking it with the report of the statement of Rhea Chakraborty where she denied making any such disclosure to the NCB.

LEGAL ACTIONS

Rakul Preet Singh had approached Delhi High Court seeking action against all these channels under the program code framed under Cable TV Networks (Regulations)

Act. Later, in September former Supreme Court Judge and present Head of NBSA A K Sikri was directed by High Court to take action against all aforementioned channels by passing an interim order on the actor's complaint against the reports which ultimately was uneven and unverified.

Firstly, the counsel representing Rakul Preet submitted before the court that the News Reports were fake and baseless, and due to which Rakul Preet suffered not only commercial losses but also lost her reputation and her Right of Privacy was also infringed.

Secondly, Rakul's counsel also submitted that reports displayed by the channels with proper screenshots, video links, and broadcaster's dialogues were also against the guidelines of NBSA and were lacking Accuracy, Objectivity, and Fairness. It was also addressed by Singh's counsel that the reports do not fall under the category of so-called brackets of Fair reporting.

ACTIONS TAKEN AGAINST CHANNELS

The authority found the hashtags and taglines used by Zee News, Zee 24 Taas, and Zee Hindustani to be offensive and violative of the code of ethics. NBSA also noted that the hashtags/taglines were very offensive and insulting and gave an impression that the actor was a part of the "drug circle" and was peddling and consuming drugs.

The broadcaster must be sensible of the impression created by the taglines/hashtags on the viewer. It also noted that misleading images of her drinking and smoking were shown from her movie "De De Pyaar De". These images were repeatedly telecast and therefore the violations by the broadcaster were terrible in nature and the response given by it was not considered as a satisfactory explanation.

Ultimately, as an apology the Zee News has been asked to apologize to the actress publicly through the following channels Zee News, Zee 24 Taas, and Zee Hindustan by at 9 PM on 17th December in the following manner:

"We apologize for how the Hashtags/ Taglines and Images were telecast while reporting the ongoing investigation of Rhea Chakroborty's narcotic drugs case. 'These telecasts violated the Code of Ethics and Broadcasting Standards requiring broadcasters to maintain neutrality, impartiality, accuracy, and fairness, the Specific Guidelines Covering Reportage and Specific Guidelines for Reporting Court Proceedings. We clarify that there was no intention on our part to sensationalize the issue or to prejudice the investigation in any manner. We reiterate our commitment to upholding every individual's right to fair trial and reputation while reporting about matters under investigation."

Apart from Zee TV, in order against Times Now the NBSA noted that the image of the complainant in skimpy clothes was certainly misleading and that the hashtag "The Rhea Drug Circle" had a tendency to give an impression that Rakul Singh was part of a drug circle. The NBSA did not find the news story to be objectionable but found the hashtags and taglines to be offensive.

Firstly, in order against India TV, the NBSA noted that the images of the complainant dancing, smoking, and of her hips were objectionably placed out of context and were deceptive. The hashtags such as "Drugs Mandli", "TOOK DRUGS" etc created the impression that she was consuming drugs.

Secondly, in order against India Today and Aaj Tak, the tagline used by Aaj Tak "Sushant ki drugs party mein Sara Ali Khan, Rakul Preet! NCB Ka Bada Khulasa" was found to have no link with the news which was reported and so was completely out of context. As regards India Today, it was found that the channel did not telecast the retraction statement of Rhea Chakraborty that she had made the statement under coercion. The retraction statement should also have been telecast in the same broadcast so that the viewers can understand the entire context of the evolving story and the versions of the parties.

Thirdly, in order against News Nation, the tagline "Drugs use Rakul Ki Preeti" was offensive and should have been avoided. However, the Authority found that the channel had reported the statement of Rhea Chakraborty's lawyer denying that she had dropped any names to the NCB.

Fourthly, in order against ABP News, the NBSA found fault with ABP News for not telecasting the retraction statement of Rhea Chakraborty. However, the channel said that it had reported the retraction statement as an article on its website, the NBSA orated that the same should have been "carried prominently" on the channel since it had declared a news story titled "Bollywood Drug Connection" implicating the complainant.

Lastly, the authority also noted that the channels (other than Zee Network) had claimed that the Narcotics Control Bureau was the source of the information. In fact, since most of the news broadcasters had quoted their source of information as NCB, therefore there is a possibility that some information may have been leaked from the NCB, the NBSA. However, NBSA has told Zee News, Zee 24, Zee Hindustani to air an apology to the actor on 17th of December along with that channels such as Times Now, India Today, Aaj Tak, etc have been told to remove links of reports against Rakul Preet Singh.

CONCLUSION

As a result of Rakul's complaint in Delhi High Court NBSA finally observed that these Hashtags/ Taglines were very offensive and derogatory and gave an impression that the complainant was definitely a part of the 'drug circle gang and was pedaling and consuming drugs. NBSA also lately observed that the broadcaster while telecasting such Hashtags, Taglines, and Images must understand the impression that these create on the viewers and the fact that these Taglines and Images, which have no connection with the news programs being telecast, cannot be broadcast randomly.

NBSA also found that the aforesaid Taglines were clearly violative of the Code of Ethics and Broadcasting Standards, Principles of Self Regulations and Specific Guidelines Covering Reportage relating to:

  • Guideline 2- Impartiality, Objectivity, and Fairness;
  • Guideline 3- Reporting on Crime and Safeguards to Ensure Crime and Violence are not glorified. Specific care must be taken not to broadcast visuals that can be prejudicial or inflammatory;
  • Guideline 4- Good Taste & Decency, Sex & Nudity.

It was also stated by NBSA that "In selecting content, broadcasters should abide by current norms and mores of decency and taste, in visuals, language, and behavior, keeping in mind the context in which any visuals, language or behavior occurs, including the broadcast time, type of content, target audience, use of parental advisories, cautions and content classification". Therefore, the use of these images in the broadcast arc violative of the Specific Guidelines, Content' of matter broadcast should not be shown out of 'context'.

Correspondingly, the case sets an illustration of "Fake Journalism" and how news channels can cross any extent to gain some extra TRPs by damaging someone's privacy and reputation.


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