Why India Today Was Directed to Follow NBDSA Guidelines on LGBTQIA+ Coverage

The NBDSA determined that India Today breached its Code of Ethics regarding Accuracy and has instructed the channel to remove the video within 7 days if it is not feasible to edit out the objectionable portions.
Image- YesWeExist and India Today
Image- YesWeExist and India Today

New Delhi - "Imagine the shock you will get when your son brings home a man as your daughter-in-law or your daughter brings home a woman as your son-in-law," said Sudhir Chaudhary, consulting editor at Aaj Tak, during a primetime show amidst the same-sex hearing.

The senior journalist then proceeded to display an image of a person dressed in stereotypical male and female attire to heighten the shock value.

This is not the first, and certainly not the last time mainstream media has done this. Unfortunately, sensationalism while reporting about the queer and trans community has become the norm.

In June 2023, anchor Pooja Shali, during a report for India Today, discussed queer pride marches in the USA and what Indians "should not learn." According to activist Indrajeet Ghorpade, the popular anchor "used out-of-context images and maliciously linked them to LGBTQ Pride Parades to spread fear and disgust against LGBTQ+ people, using manipulation, misinformation, and stereotyping methods."

Additionally, the anchor engaged in moral policing of LGBTQ+ people by making judgmental remarks about the clothes worn by some LGBTQ+ individuals participating in Pride Parades.

Taking note of the video report and its potential impact on a society that already views the queer movement as "elitist" and a "Western concept," the activist filed a complaint with the News Broadcasting & Digital Standards Authority (NBDSA).

NBDSA found that India Today violated NBDSA's Code of Ethics related to Accuracy and ordered the channel to delete the video if editing out the objectionable parts is not possible, within 7 days.

NBDSA noted that the complainant [Indrajeet] had submitted that the broadcaster [India Today] had utilized images sourced from the USA and made false assertions about those images and the LGBTQIA+ community.

The objective behind this manipulative approach was to instill fear among the audience against LGBTQIA+ individuals. The broadcaster claimed that the impugned broadcast contained reportage and analysis of instances of indecency, nudity, and sexually explicit content that were part of the Pride Parades in the USA during Pride month, viz. June 2023.

The particular report also highlighted the perception that queer people are often considered 'groomers,' a negative stereotype used to attack queer and trans individuals. NBDSA observed that "since news channels have a potent influence on public opinion, it would have been better for the broadcaster to have informed the viewers that 'grooming groups' was a negative stereotype which was part of the anti-LGBTQIA+ rhetoric."

As of now, the video remains on India Today's official social media handles, and they have not publicly commented on the order.

It is interesting to note that Indian media has always had space for queer writers and stories, with Ashok Row Kavi being an openly queer journalist since then. He founded Bombay Dost, India's first gay magazine in 1990.

The Mooknayak talked to few queer individuals about their expectations regarding recently reiterated guidelines on reporting on issues of the queer community.

Kanav, a writer at Vidhi Centre for Legal Research, said, “I see the guidelines as a welcome step in ensuring that more accurate coverage of queer issues occurs especially in vernacular media.”

“I would hope that these guidelines act as a starting point for journalists to better educate themselves on the nuances of queer issues, understand that all queer people are not the same and also realise that queer people individuals and couples are not bereft of the same constitutional rights and protections that encompass non queer people and couples.”

Rajeev Anand Kushwah, a researcher and writer commented, “My expectations from the coverage around queer issues falls in line with the ethics of journalism. It should sensitively focus on the issues plaguing the community and how it makes queer lives as not liveable within society, law and the state apparatus.”

Guidelines for broadcasters for reporting issues related to the LGBTQIA+ community

The following guidelines have been released by NBDSA:

  1. Broadcasters must avoid broadcasting any news that perpetuates stereotypes, creates undue fear, or sensationalizes issues related to the LGBTQIA+ community.

  2. Refrain from using expressions or slurs that may be construed as Hate Speech against the LGBTQIA+ community. Broadcasters must ensure that the reporting does not promote homophobia, transphobia, or negative stereotypes about the LGBTQIA+ community.

  3. Broadcasters must respect the privacy of LGBTQIA+ individuals and not disclose personal information, including gender identity and sexual orientation, without their consent.

  4. Broadcasters must respect individuals' preferred pronouns and names and endeavor to use inclusive and gender-neutral language.

  5. Broadcasters must strive for diverse representation and ensure that voices from different segments within the LGBTQIA+ community are provided a platform to express their views.

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