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The disputed comments were made by two prominent anchors of a Hindi news channel in the wake of the deadly Galwan Valley clashes in the eastern Ladakh region. The anchors have been accused of defending the government, while putting the onus of the ongoing standoff on the Indian Army. The Hindi broadcaster denies the charges.
India’s News Broadcasting Standards Authority (NBSA) has dismissed a complaint filed against a leading Hindi news channel that allegedly blamed the Indian Army for “Chinese intrusions” into Indian territory.
NBSA is an independent body set up by the News Broadcasters Association (NBA) to consider and adjudicate complaints about broadcasts.
The complaint filed with India’s Information and Broadcasting Ministry on 20 June was made by film producer Nilesh Navalakha, demanding that the news channel Aaj Tak be taken off the air for “insulting” the military.
“… if the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) entered Indian territory and our soldiers were sleeping, then it’s on the army and not on the government because the government is not on patrolling duty, the army is”, news anchors Sweta Singh and Rohit Sardana allegedly said during a broadcast on 16 June at 3 p.m., as per the complaint.
The observations were purportedly made during a panel discussion in the aftermath of the Galwan Valley clashes between troops from the Indian Army and the PLA on 15 June.
The plaintiff, Navalakha alleges that even as opposition party representatives were questioning the federal government for not revealing the exact nature of alleged Chinese incursions, the news anchors shifted the blame to the Indian armed forces.
The Galwan Valley incident, which led to the deaths of 20 Indian soldiers, is said to be the bloodiest face-off between the two Asian powerhouses since the 1962 border war.
India’s Information and Broadcasting Ministry forwarded Navalakha’s complaint to NBSA on 10 August, following which a response was submitted by the news channel on 15 September, as per a copy of the ruling.
“Instead of raising questions on the government, the anchors absolved the government of its responsibility and questioned the Indian Army and attributed that what had happened at the LAC was due to the failure of the army”, the complainant alleged.
He further claimed that the news channel was in “clear violation” of the Programme Code under the Cable Television Network Rules, 1994, and principles of self-regulation under the Code of Ethics and Broadcasting Standards.
The NBSA, which is headed by retired Supreme Court judge AK Sikri, ruled that the plaintiff had cited just a section of the broadcast rather than taking into account the entire episode.
“NBSA found that the allegation that the anchor instead of questioning the government in power chose to put the blame on the army was not correct”, states the order published on Friday.
Aaj Tak’s Response
In its response dated 15 September, Aaj Tak stated that it was very “discouraging” to come across a complaint wherein news anchors are treated as “traitors” and “anti-nationals”.
“A perusal of the broadcast, aired on 16 June at 3 PM, will make it evident that they are supporting the armed forces. In fact, it was merely analysis of the questions raised against our armed forces by certain politicians because they believe, by raising such questions they were indirectly questioning the capability and credibility of our armed worces which is not acceptable”, the Indian channel stated.