News Broadcasting Standards Authority (NBSA) resealed an order against TV news channels Aaj Tak, Zee News, India TV and News24 concerning the reporting the death of actor Sushant Singh Rajput.
On October 6, NBSA directed Aaj Tak, Zee News, India TV and News24 to air apologies in the context of their specific programmes broadcast by the channels on the demise of the actor. NBSA also issued a warning to News Nation and ABP News and fined Aaj Tak Rs 1 lakh.
The order signed by NBSA’s chairperson Justice (retired) AK Sikri further directed these channels to take down the respective programmes from their websites, YouTube channels and other platforms.
The decision came as a result of multiple complaints lodged against programs aired by the said channels.
Some of the media coverage on Sushant’s demise and the subsequent investigation has truly explored the depths. From wild scandal over the case’s “drug angle” to the media trial of Rhea Chakraborty and her family to passing off a dilemma of contradictions as news, media didn’t leave any stone unturned.
The complaints obtained by the NBSA pointed out towards specific programmes in the first few weeks news coverage following Sushant’s death.
Aaj Tak, was fined and directed to apologise based on a complaint registered by Nilesh Navalakha on how the channel had reportedly “manufactured tweets” and connected them to the actor. Aaj Tak had first responded that tweets were real, however, later quietly deleted the programme from its platforms.
The authority also pulled up various tagline tickers used by the above-said news channels while covering the death of Sushant.
Aaj Tak, for instance, used “Aise kaise hit-wicket ho gaye Sushant?” tagline, in the form of a question.
It appears that the questions are being addressed to Sushant Singh Rajput, who is no more; therefore, the taglines are offensive, violate privacy, and affect the dignity of the deceased.
Aaj Tak also had shown headlines like “Sushant itne ashant kaise,” Zee News, had flashed “7 questions on Sushant’s death,” whereas News 24 had used titles like “Hey, why didn’t you watch your own film Sushant?” a reference to Rajput’s movie Chhichhore which dealt with the sensitive topic of mental health.
Aaj Tak in its defence said that they had used the phrase “hit wicket” only once in a scrolls, for “a few seconds,” and denied that it “demeaned the dignity” of the actor.
Meanwhile, Zee News claimed that it had meant to “create a dialogue” on mental health, and News24, while stating that it did not intend to offend, said it was willing to apologise.
Aaj Tak was directed to apologise for yet another programme wherein one of its reporters barged into the house of Rajput’s father in Patna, shortly after the actor’s death, and “relentlessly attacked” him with questions. Aaj Tak responded that its coverage had not been “abhorrent” or “shameful,” but the NBSA pointed out that media “cannot thrust itself on a person and interview him/her against his/her wishes.”
Aaj Tak was ordered to air an apology for the showing the body, and also for describing at length the method of Sushant’s death.
News Nation was warned for showing the actor’s corpse but let it off after the channel showed repentance and wouldn’t repeat the same.
ABP Majha was let off with a warning after the authority noted the channel did not show close up photos of the actor’s body. Another complaint was lodged against ABP Majha stating that the channel had rushed to interview late actor’s cousin. However, NBSA said the cousin had “voluntarily” given the channel an interview.
India TV was directed to apologise for repeatedly broadcasting pictures of Sushant’s body, and describing the corpse in gruesome detail.
The authority will give the channels the text, date, and time of the apology and Aaj Tak will have to submit evidence of its telecast on a CD within seven days of the telecast.
NSBA acknowledged the right to freedom of expression of media and that the suicide of an actor would become “big news” and discussions on it would lead to hypotheses. However, it said that the press should report such cases without indulging in sensationalism.
Sushant was found dead in his Bandra apartment on June 14, and Mumbai Police stated it was a case of suicide. However, his family filed a complaint with Bihar Police accusing Rhea Chakraborty, Sushant’s former live-in partner of instigating of suicide, cheating and theft. Investigation was carried and took up cases against her, following which she sent to jail for a month.