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“Media trial not permissible in law”: NBDSA orders news channels to remove ‘sensationalist’ videos about Umar Khalid.

Socio Legal Corp

Written By- Pretika Tiwari

The National Broadcasting and Digital Standards Authority (NBDSA), the self-regulatory body for private television channels headed by the Supreme Court judge A.K. Sikri, has ordered Zee News, News 18, Zee Hindustan, Aaj Tak and Indiatv to remove specific ‘sensationalist’ videos about the former JNU student and UAPA accused, Umar Khalid. These videos/shows were broadcasted by the channels in 2020, and they carried ‘misreported’ and ‘misrepresentation’ facts about Umar Khalid. The channels mentioned above had used taglines during the broadcast about Khalid, hinting that he had been held guilty in the Delhi riots.

The Authority was dealing with a complaint that was filed by advocate Indrajeet Ghorpade claiming that the channels were guilty of a media trial against Khalid. After going through the complaint and replies from the news channels, the Authority observed the following, “…the media has the freedom to report on any subject matter concerning public interest. It is a fact that riots took place in Delhi. It is also a fact that Umar Khalid was arrested by the Police, and the Police have filed a charge sheet alleging that Umar Khalid was the mastermind behind these riots. It can also be assumed that these riots would amount to anti-national activities…” It also stated that it would have been permissible for the news to hold panel discussions limited to the allegations levelled against Umar Khalid by the Police, namely that the police charge sheet has indicted Umar Khalid with the explicit clarification that these are only allegations that have yet to be proven in a court of law. But the media channels went beyond that and claimed that Umar Khalid had been proven guilty, which amounts to a media trial that is not permissible in law.

In light of this, the Authority concluded that the broadcasts were in violation of the values of impartiality, objectivity, and neutrality established in the Code of Ethics and Broadcasting Standards and Guidelines issued by the Authority. Therefore, the court instructed that the video of the broadcast as mentioned above be withdrawn immediately from the channel’s website, YouTube, or any other links and that the same be confirmed in writing to NBDSA within seven days of receipt of the Order.

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