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AajTak Told to Air Apology for Spreading Fake News About Actor Sushant Singh Rajput’s Death

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AajTak, the Hindi television news channel, was asked by the News Broadcasting Standards Authority (NBSA) on Thursday to air an apology on April 23 for spreading misinformation regarding actor Sushant Singh Rajput‘s death, Live Law reported.

NBSA has also charged the channel Rs 1 lakh payable to the News Broadcasting Association (NBA) within seven days of receipt of the order.

Rajput died by suicide on June 14, 2020, in Mumbai, sparking several controversies, and a trial by media speculating the cause of his death, mental health issues and nepotism in the Hindi film industry. Rajput’s death initiated a massive drug probe, which is being investigated by the Narcotics Control Bureau and the Central Bureau of Investigation.

After his death, news channels including AajTak, Zee News, News 24, India.com, News Track Live, and India TV had broadcast and published news stories with screenshots of three tweets which were doing the rounds on WhatsApp. They claimed that the actor had contacted these channels hinting at his worsening mental health and seeking help hours before his death and had later deleted them.

On finding that the channel had violated broadcasting norms according to a complaint filed by film producer Nilesh Navalakha, NBSA had once issued orders to AajTak on October 6, 2020 to air an apology on their channel on October 27, pay a fine of Rs 1 lakh to NBA and remove related videos from all platforms within seven days of the issuance of the order. 

AajTak had filed an application seeking review of the order. The channel claimed that the complainant had failed to provide details of the broadcast and merely provided a link to the fact-checking website Boom Live, whose fact-checking was not maintainable.

The NBSA replied in the review petition that the channel lacked substance and fresh arguments could not be raised as AajTak had not raised these arguments during the original proceedings, despite giving them the opportunity.

According to the NBSA, the apology to be aired on April 23 at 8 pm would read: “AajTak apologises that while reporting on the incidents relating to the suicide of Sushant Singh Rajput, we had run certain tweets on AajTak channel and wrongly reported the screenshots calling them real and attributing them as the actor’s last tweets. By doing so, we have violated Clause 1 of the Specific Guidelines Covering Reportage relating to ‘accuracy’ which states that information should be gathered first -hand from more than one source, if possible; reports received from news-agencies should be attributed and where possible be verified; allegations should be reported accurately as made and errors of fact should be corrected at the earliest, giving sufficient prominence to the broadcast of the correct version of fact(s).”

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