NEW DELHI : The News Broadcasting Standards Authority (NBSA) has reiterated guidelines for the reporting of the Ayodhya matter that is pending in the Supreme Court.

Being a visual medium, the electronic media is a powerful tool and the information disseminated by it has wide impact and it plays an important role in the formation of public opinion, a statement from NBSA said. Therefore, it is incumbent on the news broadcasters to take extra care and be cautious while telecasting news relating to sensitive and emotive matters.

“The reporting of the Ayodhya issue being heard by the Hon’ble Supreme Court is one such matter in which extra care and caution needs to be exercised to ensure that the telecast of any news relating to it should not be sensational, inflammatory or provocative. The basic guideline to be adhered to during telecasting news is respect of the above issue is that all such news should conform strictly to subserving the public interest of maintaining communal harmony and preservation of the secular ethos of the country," it said.

Reporting on such an issue requires adherence to the Code of Ethics and Broadcasting Standards and certain specific guidelines issued from time to time in this regard. It is, therefore, necessary that all news broadcasters should not only ensure strict compliance of the guidelines but should also ensure that no occasion arises for any speculation about the accuracy, neutrality and impartiality of the content.

Specific guidelines include that no broadcast should be made in any speculative manner in respect of the present proceedings before the Court nor of the judgment before it is pronounced; and of its likely consequence thereafter which may be sensational, inflammatory or provocative. No news in relation to the proceedings shall be broadcast unless the reporter and/or editor have adequately ascertained the accuracy, authenticity and correctness of what is reported, preferably from Court records, or at the very least, by being personally present during such proceedings.

For clarity and adherence it is emphasized that programmes should not speculate on issues relating to the judgment or its repercussions. No footage of the demolition of the Babri Masjid is to be shown in any news item relating to the matter and no visuals need be shown depicting celebration or protest by persons in respect of the matter. Extra care should be taken to ensure accuracy by vetting and clearance at the highest editorial level and telecast of any news must not give any impression of bias or prejudice in favour of, or against any community. Care should be taken to ensure that no opportunity is given to anyone to express any extreme view, including in debates in order to influence the viewers. Debates which are provocative and inflammatory and likely to create tension in the public should be avoided.

The authority added that the occasion is a challenge, as well as an opportunity to the member channels to prove the efficacy of the self-regulatory mechanism.