The News Broadcasting Standards Authority, NBSA, has directed Times Now TV to air an apology to activist Sanjukta Basu for making objectionable comments about her during a debate in 2018. In its order, the NBSA asked the channel to air the apology on October 27 at 9 pm.

The broadcasting authority said Times Now ran a defamatory programme about the author and social activist on April 6, 2018. The channel referred to her in its shows as “Hindu hater”, “vile troll” and claimed that she was a part of Congress leader Rahul Gandhi’s “troll army”, the order said. It added that the channel did not contact to get her version and also did not verify the facts before broadcasting thereby violating the association’s guidelines.

The authority asked Times Now to air the following message: “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.”

NBSA was of the view that there was an absence of neutrality in the programme, the order said. The authority has further asked the channel to remove any video of the broadcast from its website, YouTube or any other links and submit it in writing to NBSA.

The news channel has also been asked to submit the compact disc, or CD, containing the apology telecast with date and time within one week of airing as a mark of compliance, the order said. Further, Times Now has to share the order with the media, members of News Broadcasters Association and also put it on its website and include it in its annual report.

Basu had on Saturday moved the Supreme Court alleging that her complaint before the NBSA filed in March 2019 was pending till date. “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 a press release after NBSA’s order.

The activist said that the order was not the end of the fight and called it the “first milestone”.

“In pursuing my case I’ve come across many weaknesses in the way NBSA functions and it is an irony that in front of Supreme Court and Bombay High Court, NBA and Union of India have been arguing that NBSA is already a robust body for broadcast media standards and grievance redressal and no improvement is required. This is simply not true, as my case shows that there are many questions that remain unanswered. To begin with, why did it take them 15 months to give a judgment when their mandate is to settle complaints in 3 months, and how come in just 24 hours of my moving SC they released the order? Where are the transparency and accountability measures?”

— Author and social activist Sanjukta Basu

Basu also took to Twitter to announce the order, saying that the fight started when she met Gandhi. “RG [Rahul Gandhi] met me and few other social media influencers,” she tweeted. “Times Now labelled me “Hindu hater” “troll army” to embarrass him. Far from embarrassment RG [Rahul Gandhi] decided to follow me. Today Times Now is punished. We won.”