'Lacks Objectivity, Impartiality': NBSA Tells Zee News to Take Down Show on Shehla Rashid

Rashid has expressed disappointment that while ruling in her favour, the Authority has not asked the channel to issue a public apology on provide compensation.

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New Delhi: The News Broadcasting and Digital Standards Authority (NBDSA) has ruled that Zee News must take down links of a show about Shehla Rashid, which the authority said lacked objectivity, impartiality and had presented only ‘one side of the story’.

Rashid had filed a complaint against the show hosted by Sudhir Chaudhary and aired on November 30, 2020 at 11 pm. Chaudhary had interviewed Rashid’s father on the show, from whom she and her mother are estranged, and he had made wild allegations against her without any proof. The anchor too added fuel to the fire, Rashid’s complaint noted, by insinuating that Rashid was involved in “anti-national activities” and was “funding terror”.

The NBDSA has said in its order dated March 31, 2022 that by allowing Rashid’s father to make his allegations without evidence or questioning, Zee News had presented only “one side of the story”. The order notes, according to LiveLaw:

“Further, not only had the broadcaster failed to approach the complainant for her version, prior to telecasting the impugned programme but by making only a fleeting reference to her denial of the allegations, the broadcaster had also failed to adequately present her version. In any case, the Authority noted that to broadcast the version of the complainant available in her social media posts was not sufficient compliance of the Guidelines.”

The NBDSA chairperson, Justice (retired) A.K. Sikri, also noted that the visuals Zee News chose to use alongside Rashid’s father’s words – of the Jawaharlal Nehru University campus – had nothing at all to do with what he was saying. The channel must be careful in the future, the order noted, to ensure that it does not portray such baseless, wide-ranging accusations to try and sway the audience.

“The Authority observed that such generalised statements are violative of the Code of Ethics and Broadcasting Standards and Guidelines relating to Impartiality and Objectivity in reporting. The broadcaster should be careful in future while making general accusatory statements in any of its broadcasts.”

Responding to the order, Rashid said she was surprised that despite finding merit in her complaint and ruling in her favour, the NBDSA had not asked Zee News to issue a public apology or any compensation. She added that the channel had not attempted to contact her at all to ask for her response.

“While this order is a vindication for me, it’s not nearly enough. The broadcast made wild allegations against me – being anti-national, raising some slogans that they only know, misappropriating funds & what not!” she continued. “As an individual, I suffer the consequences of this every single day. I lose out on health and work opportunities because of this. Such news items show up on a Google search for any potential employer to see.”

Reports like this, Rashid continued, were still haunting her. She referred to a January 2022 article by OpIndia alleging that she had misappropriated funds. These attacks, she said, have not stopped despite her no longer being active in politics or public life for the last three years.

Rashid, who did her PhD from JNU, was briefly associated with the Jammu and Kashmir People’s Party, launched by Shah Faesal, before she decided in October 2019 to step away from electoral politics.

Around the time the Zee News programme aired, Rashid’s father had been making regular allegations against her, her mother and her sister. In December 2020, a Srinagar court restricted her father and the media from publishing defamatory content or details of her private life.