The News Broadcasting Standards Authority (NBSA) has admonished English news channel Times Now for not disclosing the complete credentials of one of its panelists, Maroof Raza, in a discussion on Tatra trucks deals aired by it in April this year. Raza was introduced in the discussion as a strategic defence analyst and expert.
A Mumbai resident filed a complaint with the NBSA, the regulatory body set up by the country’s leading news broadcasters, in May saying Raza was a consultant for foreign arms manufacturers, suppliers and dealers and ran the business through M/s Maroof Raza & Associates.
Given Raza’s business interests, he said, there was a case of conflict of interest in his participation in the debate as a defence expert. The complainant also said that in cases where there was a possibility of conflict between the business interests of an expert and the subject matter on which he or she was expressing opinion, it should be obligatory on the part of the channel to make proper disclosures so as to allow the audiences to assess the views expressed objectively.
The Tatra trucks controversy relates to allegations by former Army chief V K Singh that he was offered a bribe to clear the all-terrain vehicle and hinting that the trucks were sub-standard.
The NBSA heard Times Now’s and Raza’s defence and held that not disclosing Raza’s business interests was a lapse of the channel. In its order passed on October 25, the NBSA said: “(In) the present case, considering the fact that Maroof Raza was expressing his opinion as an expert on military affairs in relation to Tatra truck deal... and on related issues, it was necessary for Times Now to have disclosed that Mr Raza was also engaged in the business of consulting for and representing manufacturers, suppliers and dealers of military hardware and equipment under the name and style of M/s Maroof Raza & Associates, since by virtue of such business, Mr Raza’s views on Tatra trucks deal could have been colored by his business interests or those of his clients or potential clients.”
The self-regulatory authority headed by former chief justice J S Verma finally directed Times Now to ensure adequate disclosures on business interests, credentials and circumstances of those appearing as experts and specialists on the channel.
Raza, however, told The Indian Express that he submitted to the NBSA that while the said company did exist, it hadn’t ever done