News Broadcasting Standards Authority (NBSA) has issued guidelines to all the editors of the member news channels regarding reporting of Ayodhya matter pending in the Supreme Court.
NBSA has written that the reporting of the Ayodhya issue being heard by the Supreme Court is one such matter in which extra care and caution needs to be exercised to ensure that the telecast of any news relating to it should not be sensational, inflammatory or provocative.
NBSA is an independent body for self-regulation of 24x7 news channels, who are members of the News Broadcasters Association. Justice (Retd.) A K Sikri, former Judge of the Supreme Court of India, is the current Chairperson of the authority.
Supreme Court has been hearing the above matter on a daily basis and the issues involved in the above matter are extremely sensitive in nature.
Being a visual medium, the electronic media is a powerful tool and the information disseminated by it has wide impact and it plays an important role in the formation of public opinion. Therefore, it is incumbent on the news broadcasters to take extra care and be cautious while telecasting news relating to sensitive and emotive matters.
The basic guideline to be adhered to during telecasting news in respect of the above issue is that all such news should conform strictly to subserving the public interest of maintaining communal harmony and preservation of the secular ethos of the country, said the authority.
The advisory added, “It is, therefore, necessary that all news broadcasters should not only ensure strict compliance of the guidelines but should also ensure that no occasion arises for any speculation about the accuracy, neutrality and impartiality of the content.”
Some additional specific guidelines to be observed in relation to the telecast of news in this matter are as follows:
1. “No broadcast should be made in any speculative manner in respect of the present proceedings before the Hon’ble Supreme Court nor of the judgement before it is pronounced; and of its likely consequence thereafter which may be sensational, inflammatory or provocative.
2. No news in relation to the present proceedings pending before the Hon’ble Supreme Court shall be broadcast unless the reporter and/or editor have adequately ascertained the accuracy, authenticity and correctness of what is reported, preferably from Court records, or at the very least, by being personally present during such proceedings.
3. For clarity and adherence it is emphasised that programmes/telecast should not speculate on issues relating to the Ayodhya judgement or its repercussions.
4. No footage of the demolition of the Babri Masjid is to be shown in any news item relating to the Ayodhya matter.
5. No visuals need be shown depicting celebration or protest by persons in respect of the Ayodhya matter.
6. In view of the sensitivity of news reporting on this issue, extra care should be taken to ensure accuracy by vetting and clearance at the highest editorial level.
7. Telecast of any news/programme must not give any impression of bias or prejudice in favour of, or against any community.
8. Care should be taken to ensure that no opportunity is given to anyone to express any extreme view, including in debates in order to influence the viewers.
9. Debates which are provocative and inflammatory and likely to create tension in the public should be avoided.
NBSA said that it expects strict adherence to these guidelines by all the editors to avoid any violation which may attract strict action. “This occasion is a challenge, as well as an opportunity to the Member channels to prove the efficacy of the self-regulatory mechanism. It is hoped that the opportunity would not be lost,” it concluded.