NBSA tells Times Now to apologise to activist Sanjukta Basu for derogatory comments during 2018 debate

In its shows, the channel had referred to Basu as “Hindu hater”, “vile troll” and claimed that she was a part of Congress leader Rahul Gandhi’s “troll army”, the NBSA said

FP Staff October 25, 2020 18:48:46 IST
NBSA tells Times Now to apologise to activist Sanjukta Basu for derogatory comments during 2018 debate

File image of activist Sanjukta Basu. Twitter @sanjukta

The News Broadcasting Standards Authority (NBSA) on Saturday directed television channel Times Now to air a public apology for making objectionable comments against author and activist Sanjukta Basu during a debate in 2018, according to several media reports.

It also directed the broadcaster to immediately remove the videos of the debate from its website, YouTube or any other links which are available and sought written compliance of its directives in seven days.

In its order, the NBSA directed the channel to telecast the following apology at 9 pm on 27 October: “We regret that in the programmes aired on 6.4.2018 – ‘India Upfront’@ 8 pm and ‘The NewsHour Debate’@ 9 pm on Times Now channel, we had not taken the version of the complainant Ms Sanjukta Basu, thereby violating the principles relating to impartiality and objectivity and ensuring neutrality and fairness in reporting. We clarify that there was no intention to bring disrepute to Ms Sanjukta Basu.”

According to LiveLaw, the regulator gave the order based on a complaint mailed by Basu in March 2019, alleging that Times Now had run a defamatory programme against her on 6 April, 2018, along with the links to the programmes.

In her complaint, Basu also claimed that the channel had not contacted her for her version of events or verified all facts before running the shows and had also not heeded her request for an apology later.

In its shows, the channel had referred to Basu as “Hindu hater”, “vile troll” and claimed that she was a part of Congress leader Rahul Gandhi’s “troll army”, the NBSA said in its order and noted that this amounted to an absence of neutrality as the activist was not given an opportunity to rebut or give her version.

"The broadcaster had violated the principles of self-regulation relating to impartiality and objectivity, ensuring neutrality and fairness in reporting", the regulator said, observing that the channel's actions also amounted to a violation of its guidelines.

As per a Scroll report, the broadcaster has been asked to share the NBSA's order with the media, members of News Broadcasters Association as well as to put it up on its website and include it in its annual report.

The association also asked Times Now to submit a CD containing the apology telecast with date and time within one week of airing as a mark of compliance, after which the matter will be closed.

The order came a day after Basu, on 23 October, filed an intervention application in the Supreme Court in a matter related to Sudarshan TV, to raise "pertinent questions over the non-functioning of the NBSA as a grievance redressal body and shed additional light on their adjudication mechanisms which, have inherent weaknesses."

In her petition, Basu alleged that her complaint before the association was pending since 15 months from the date of hearing and 19 months since her complaint, even though it is "mandated" to give its decision within three months of the complaint.

In a statement released after the NBSA order, the activist said that she was not withdrawing the intervention application filed in the SC as the questions raised by her about "the regulator's non-functioning and inherent weakness are still valid in larger public interest".

“Even before the matter could be listed or hearing could commence, the NBSA has hurriedly released the long-delayed judgment on my complaint against Times Now channel deciding in my favour,” she said in the release but added that the order vindicated her stand.

"Though the NBSA has not gone into the allegations and counter-allegations made in my complaint, the fact that they have found the broadcaster guilty of violating basic principles of self-regulation and fair reporting, vindicates my views in the matter," Basu said.

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