Screengrab of the Zee News show aired in June last year. | Zee News/YouTube

The News Broadcasting and Digital Standards Authority on Monday directed Zee News to take down one of its debate shows aired in June last year about the Muslim population from its website and social media handles immediately for violating the regulator’s code of ethics.

The show titled, “Kudrat bahaana hai, Muslim aabaadi badhaana hai” (nature is just a pretext to increase the Muslim population), had panellists discuss the growth of the population in India, the two-child policy proposed by the Uttar Pradesh government and the Samajwadi Party MP Shafiqur Rahman Barq’s comments against the legislation.

The parliamentarian from Sambhal had last year said, “How many kids will be born…all this is under the control of nature. We all are Allah’s children. We don’t have any natural right to obstruct this [reproduction] process.”

In an order passed on Monday, News Broadcasting and Digital Standards Authority chairperson Justice AK Sikri took objection to the headline of the show, saying it was “telecast without any data or substantial material to support it”. During a hearing, Zee News failed to justify the statement it ran in the headline, the authority said.

The news regulator said the manner in which the topic was framed and the language used by the channel clearly showed that “there was an agenda” to the debate. “This was also clear from the images that were displayed during the debate,” the order said.

The taglines, the news regulator added, were used without any supporting data or facts. “The taglines amount to giving tilt to the debate which created a perception that there is only one community that is responsible for the population growth in the country,” the order stated.

Justice Sikri also observed that Zee News had shown Rahman Barq’s remarks against the proposed two-child policy as the “view of an entire community”, whereas it appeared to be his individual opinion.

“If the broadcaster desired to debate the two-child policy proposed by the UP government, the tagline/headline could have been avoided and a more neutral and objective tagline could have been displayed during the debate,” he added.

The News Broadcasting and Digital Standards Authority ordered Zee News to be more careful while doing such shows in future.

Adding the “disclaimer” word to any programme, including debates, does not absolve the broadcaster of its responsibility in the event the programme violates the Code of Ethics and Guidelines issued by the authority, the order said.

In April, the News Broadcasting and Digital Standards Authority had directed Zee News to remove a video of one of its shows from all its platforms based on a complaint filed by activist Shehla Rashid. The authority said that the show, aired in November 2020, lacked objectivity, impartiality and had presented only “one side of the story”.

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