Hate politics has found a fertile playground within the news media, especially television, for a while. When dealing with religious and sensitive content, a shrill rhetoric that pits one community against the other is insidiously put in motion. This satisfies not only the individual, even majoritarian biases of the television station but attracts a more rabid following while also keeping many in powerful positions well-heeled and satisfied.It is in this context that, Aaj Tak aired a show, telecasting a divisive agenda. It painted a chilling picture of current state of TV news reporting
Arguments in the contested Ayodhya caseculminated on October 16, 2019. The Supreme Court at made this clear at the start of hearings today. Anticipating this, many news channels –famed for riding high on sensation-- picked on a divisive rhetoric; pitting Hindus versus Muslims, even when the dispute is being heard purely as a land dispute by the Supreme Court.
Amidst this news channel cacophony, came Aaj Tak with a disturbing catch-line for a debate calling it “Janmabhoomi hamari, Ram hamare, Masjid wale kaha se padhare” (the birthplace is ours, Ram is ours, where have these ‘mosque people’ come from?). There could be no sharper instance of ‘othering’. Unfortunately in today’s India it garners support and increased TRPs. They put out this tweet on the evening preceding the final day of hearing , of the Ayodhya case, employing divisive news reporting simply to fuel division not . There was a not so carefully hidden agenda of spreading hate and enmity between the two communities.
Though belatedly, the National Broadcasting Standards Authority (NBSA), has issued a special advisory on the issue. It is to be hoped that this will be followed by news broadcasters while giving news coverage to the proceedings in and out of the court on the Ayodhya case.
The advisory issued on October 16, 2019 can be read here.
The advisory highlighted some very key tactics that news channels commonly resort to which could lead to the disturbing of public harmony. NBSA advised news channels to follow this advisory. In brief, the NBSA asked news channels not to speculate, to ascertain facts of the hearing before reporting, to refrain from showing mosque demolition footage, to not broadcast any celebrations of any community with regards to the Ayodhya case and to ensure that no extreme views are aired in the debates.
It was expected that after having received such advisory, Aaj Tak would retract and delete their hate-filled tweet and post. So far that has not happened.