Arnab Goswami’s Republic TV and Republic Bharat have continued to ignore and defy the Information and Broadcasting Ministry’s advisory, issued earlier this year on April 23, asking news channels to stay away from hyperbole and misleading news.
On Sunday, Goswami’s channels were caught airing a highly misleading news item with full intensity about a coup in China and the house arrest of Chinese President Xi Jinping, which was based on a satire Twitter thread by Georg Fahrion - the Beijing correspondent for German news website Der Spiegel.
Forget about doing basic due diligence to establish the authenticity of the news from Indian Army or intelligence agencies before jumping on such a sensitive topic, the channels of Goswami kept claiming pictures tweeted by Fahrion as their exclusive pictures.
The impact of misinformation could be assessed by the fact that even Retd Major General GD Bakshi believed the rumour and he got engaged in a full throttle debate on the channel.
After being called out by the fact checkers, the channels deleted the clips from the respective YouTube and Facebook handles.
All this happened while I&B Minister Anurag Thakur, just last Monday, had made a strong pitch for “bringing back neutrality in news”, saying shrill debates may get television channels eyeballs but not credibility.
"If you decide to invite guests who are polarising, who spread false narratives and who shout at the top of their lungs, the credibility of your channel goes down. Your decisions regarding the guest, the tone and visuals define your credibility in the eyes of the audience," the minister said.
Although Thakur did not name any channel, the apparent reference was to Goswami who introduced the debate format on television and continues using them to garner TRPs.
Addressing a function organised by the Asia-Pacific Institute for Broadcasting Development (AIBD), Thakur had said the biggest threat to mainstream media is not from new age digital platforms, but mainstream media channels itself.
This is not for the first time that Goswami is seen disrespecting and bypassing the I&B Minister and his ministry.
Goswami was reportedly in loggerheads with Thakur a few months ago over the suspension of news television ratings.
Although the Ministry did not single out any channel in its April advisory, Republic’s hyperbolic reporting on Russia-Ukraine war was very much the reason behind the Ministry’s action.
With the global disrepute brought by Goswami’s channels on a highly sensitive matter from India’s strategic point, the industry is looking up to Thakur and his Ministry for appropriate action in order to set an example for others.