Broadcasting authority slams Times Now, News 18 for ‘love jihad’ narratives

Times Now and News 18 India have both been fined for linking the murder of Shraddha Walkar to ‘love jihad’ and have been told to remove all of the offensive videos.
Himanshu Dixit (Times Now Navbharat) and Amish Devgan (News 18 India)
Himanshu Dixit (Times Now Navbharat) and Amish Devgan (News 18 India)HimanshuDixit/Instagram, AmishDevgan/X
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The News Broadcasters & Digital Association (NBDSA) has slammed Times Now, Aaj Tak, and News 18 for several news reports that set a targeted narrative against Muslims, particularly concerning ‘love jihad’. ‘Love jihad’ refers to a bogus claim made by the Hindu right wing that Muslim men are ‘luring’ Hindu women into marriages to convert them to Islam.  Times Now and News 18 India have both been fined for linking the murder of Shraddha Walkar to ‘love jihad’ and have been told to remove all of the offensive videos. 

In its order to News 18 India, NBDSA said, “The term ‘love jihad’ should not be used loosely and should be used with great introspection in future broadcasts as religious stereotyping can corrode the secular fabric of the country, cause irreparable harm to a community and create religious intolerance or disharmony.” 

Times Now was also similarly admonished, with the NBDSA warning against “generalised statements regarding inter-faith marriages by giving it a communal colour.” They further told Times Now, “Every citizen, from whichever religion, has a right to marry a person of his/her choice, irrespective of the religion to which he/she belongs.”

After the murder of Shradda Walkar by her live-in partner Aaftab Amin Poonawala in November 2022, Times Now Navbharat and News 18 aired several segments claiming that the murder was an organised ‘love jihad’ crime. Taking issue with the misreporting that the murder was religiously motivated, activist Indrajeet Ghorpade filed complaints with the NBDSA against Himanshu Dixit from Times Now Navbharat and against News 18 India’s Aman Chopra and Amish Devgan. 

News 18 India had conducted four shows, all making claims of ‘love jihad’ in connection to Shradda’s murder. An FIR is already pending in Rajasthan against one of the shows, titled ‘Aar Paar Amish Devgan Ke Saath | Love Jihad | Shraddha Murder | Aftab Amin | Debate News’. Noting this, the NBDSA excluded this show alone from its ruling as the matter is pending before a court of law. Accordingly, the NBDSA confined its investigation to the following three shows conducted by Aman and Amish:

  1.  Love Jihad Bahana, ek Mahzab Nishana ? Desh Nahin Jhukne Denge Aman Chopra ke Saath

  2.  Desh Nahin Jhukne Denge Aman Chopra ke Saath| Shraddha murder case | Aaftab | Mehrauli Murder 

  3. Aar Paar Amish Devgan ke Saath LIVE | Shraddha Murder Case | Aftab Narco Test | Love Jihad 

The NBDSA called it “inappropriate” to link Shradda’s murder to ‘love jihad’ as the anchors used the “premise to paint/target an entire community instead of blaming a few miscreants for murder and violence.” It further said that the targeted narrative “was evident from the statements made by the anchors during the impugned broadcasts, including the repeated references linking the term love jihad’ to the Shraddha Walker murder case and the usage of the hashtag #LoveJihadFiles in the second and fourth broadcasts in relation to a particular community.” 

Apart from being directed to remove the videos, News 18 India has been fined with Rs 50,000 for “violating the principles of neutrality, impartiality and accuracy under the Code of Ethics and the specific guidelines covering reportage relating to racial and religious harmony.”

Similarly, Times Now Navbharat’s Himanshu Dixit has been criticised by the NBDSA who said, “It appears that at the very beginning of the broadcast, the anchor had concluded that men from a certain community lured women from another community by hiding their religious identity and then committed violence or murders against such women and every such violence or murder committed on women of a certain community are related to ‘love jihad’.”

“This is evident from the questions raised and statements made by the anchor during the impugned broadcast. When some of the panellists expressed their concerns regarding the communal angle being given to such alleged incidents and regarding selective cases of violence against women where the perpetrator belonged to a particular community, the anchor shouted them down and did not allow them to express their views,” the NBDSA further noted.

The NBDSA also expressly stated, “There may be some instances where boys from a particular community married Hindu girls. However, such instances should not lead to making generalised statements regarding inter-faith marriages by giving them a communal colour. Every citizen, from whichever religion, has a right to marry a person of his/her choice, irrespective of the religion to which he/she belongs. Merely because a Hindu girl married a boy of another faith would not be tantamount to ‘love jihad’ unless it is established that such a Hindu girl was duped or coerced into the marriage. Further, because of few incidents of such forced marriages, an entire community cannot be branded.” 

The tickers in Himanshu’s show variously claimed:

  1. “Jihadiyo se Beti Bachao” (“save girls from jihadis”);

  2. “Desh mein Love Jihad ka Sach (“The truth about love jihad”): Church ka dava, 10,000 isali ladkiya bani shikar”

  3. “Desh mein Love Jihad ka Sach: VHP ke muatbik 2009-2022 mein 400 case” (“According to VHP there were 400 love jihad cases in 2009-2022”)

  4. “Desh mein Love Jihad ka Sach: Sirf 2023 mein love jihad ke 153 case” (153 cases of love jihad in 2023)

  5. “Desh mein Love Jihad ka Sach: Hyderabad mein 2000 ladkiya gayab, love jihad ka shak” (2000 women missing in Hyderabad, love jihad suspected).

Times Now has been fined Rs 1 lakh and told to remove the video from the channel’s website, YouTube, and all hyperlinks. 

Meanwhile, Aaj Tak has been pulled up for reports in the wake of the Ram Navami violence in 2022. Anchor Sudhir Chaudhary had claimed that Muslim-dominated neighbourhoods were dangerous to those of other religions and that such neighbourhoods were “spreading” across India. Sudhir aired several offensive tickers that claimed: “Aaj Muslim ilaake, Kal Muslim Bharat” (Today a Muslim neighbourhood, tomorrow a Muslim India) and “Aaj ilaake, kal zilla, parso desh” (Today a neighbourhood, tomorrow a district and day after that, the whole country).  Sudhir also compared the borders of Muslim neighbourhoods to India’s international borders with China and Pakistan, claiming that the former was just as dangerous to visit as the latter. He further made remarks asking if there were any “Hindu, Sikh, Jain, Parsi or Christian neighbourhoods” implying that only Muslims lived in exclusive areas. 

While Aaj Tak has not been fined, they have been directed to remove the video from their website and YouTube. The NBDSA also observed, “There would have been no problem with the broadcast if the broadcaster had confined its analysis to the incidents of communal violence. However, by broadcasting the following tickers “Aaj Mushm ilaake, Kal Muslim Bharat” and “Aaj ilaaka, kal silla, parso desh” and “Aapne kabhi sikh ya parsi ilaaka suna bai”  during the programme, a completely different colour had been given to the programme.” 

The NBDSA further added, “Incidents of communal violence committed by a few miscreants had been generalised by the anchor to target a particular community. This is evident from the statements made by the anchor in the broadcast.”

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