The News Broadcasting Standards Authority (NBSA) has fined news channel Aaj Tak Rs 1 lakh for telecasting fake tweets related to actor Sushant Singh Rajput, Live Law reported on Thursday.
The self-governing authority also directed broadcasters Aaj Tak, Zee News, India TV, and News 24 to air an apology on their channels for violation of ethics in TV coverage of the case and for affecting the dignity of the deceased.
The order was signed and released by NBSA chairperson retired Supreme Court Justice AK Sikri. NBSA said it had directed Aaj Tak to air an apology for not conducting the due diligence prior to telecasting fake tweets and attributing them to the late actor.
The order was shared on Twitter by one of the complainants Saurav Das.
In the order, the NBSA said Aaj Tak “did not conduct the due diligence required prior to telecasting the tweets and attributing” those to Rajput. It also said that videos of the same programs hosted on the website or on YouTube should be removed immediately.
The authority will give the channel the text, date, and time of the apology and Aaj Tak will have to submit proof of its telecast on a CD within seven days of the telecast.
It also issued a warning to News Nation for showing the actor's corpse but let it off after the channel showed remorse and said the same would not be repeated. ABP Majha was also let off with a warning as the authority noted that the channel did not show close up photos of the actor’s body.
The authority pulled up Aaj Tak for its “hit-wicket” tagline, used 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 had displayed headlines like “Sushant itne ashant kaise”, Zee News, had flashed “7 questions on Sushant’s death” while News 24 had used headlines like “Hey, why didn’t you watch your own film Sushant?”
NSBA acknowledged that the media has the right to freedom of expression and that the suicide of an actor would become “big news” and discussions on it would lead to hypotheses. However, it said that the media should report such cases without indulging in sensationalism.
Sushant was found dead in his Bandra apartment on June 14. The Mumbai Police said it was a case of suicide, but subsequently, Rajput’s family filed a complaint with Bihar Police accusing his former live-in partner Rhea Chakraborty of abetment of suicide and cheating. Three central agencies – the Central Bureau of Investigation, the Enforcement Directorate, the Narcotics Control Bureau – took up cases against her.