Advisory issued to TV channels on reporting communal matters with caution

NEW DELHI: In view of the manner in which the Muzaffarnagar communal riots were reported, the government has advised all television channels to adhere by the programme/advertising code to prevent attracting penal provisions in section 20 of the Cable TV Networks (Regulation) Act 1995.

In a notification posted on its website, the Information and Broadcasting Ministry said that it was issuing this advisory in exercise of powers under the uplinking/downlinking guidelines issued by it, the terms of permission granted to the channel to uplink/downlink TV channels and under Section 20 of the 1995 Act.

It noted that in the wake of the recent Muzaffarnagar communal riots, some TV channels had been telecasting inflammatory and provocative news/programmes in a sensational manner. Some TV channels had also been airing footage, video, interviews, etc. of leaders of diverse spectrum which could vitiate the situation in the entire area. These could further ignite communal tension, violence and create law and order problem not only in the riot affected area but elsewhere.

The Ministry said a strong need is felt that TV channels should take all steps to avoid telecasting such inflammatory and sensitive material and should exercise maximum restraint and caution in reporting matters of this nature. News, views or comments relating to communal tension/clashes should be telecast only after proper verification of facts and presented with due caution and restraint in a manner which is in the public interest of maintaining communal harmony. No news/programme should be carried by TV channels which are likely to foment disharmony or enmity between religious groups.

Section 5 of the 1995 Act read with Rule 6(1) (c), & (e) of the cable TV Networks Rules 1994 as amended from time to time are clear that 'no programme can be transmitted/re-transmitted on any Cable Service which, inter-alia, promote communal attitudes; and is likely to encourage or incite violence or contains anything against maintenance of law and order or which promote anti-national attitudes.'

The Ministry therefore advised all TV channels to follow the provisions of the Programme Code scrupulously and exercise restraint and sensitivity while reporting such incidents and refrain from telecasting any material which could ignite communal passions and create law and order problem.

It also said any violation of the provisions of the programme/advertising code would attract penal provisions stipulated in section 20 of the Act and the terms and conditions of uplinking and

downlinking guidelines.

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