Ofcom upholds complaint against Samaa TV by Dr Syed Alam Shah

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Ofcom has upheld a complaint against Samaa TV by Dr Syed Alam Shah for unjust/unfair treatment in a programme in November 2018.

The ruling, which was published by Ofcom today, said that the programme described Shah as an Indian citizen who posed as a Baloch nationalist and had protested against the building of dams in Pakistan in support of the Indian Prime Minster. He said that the report showed images of him and referred to him as an Indian “agent”.

Samaa TV said that relations between Pakistan and India had been “extremely strained especially in relation to disputes over the division and distribution of water” and that any news reporting of protests being carried out “by Indian citizens against the construction of the dams in Pakistan” was of “grave public importance”.

Samaa TV said that Dr Shah had not denied that he is not an Indian citizen, nor had he provided any evidence along with his complaint to show that he was not an Indian citizen. The broadcaster said that Dr Shah did not deny that he was part of the crowd welcoming the Indian Prime Minister, or had taken part in anti Pakistan protests in the past.

It added that it was not mentioned in the programme that Dr Shah was an agent working for RAW. The broadcaster said that before the news report was aired, Dr Shah was provided an opportunity to clarify his position when a correspondent of Samaa TV approached Dr Shah at the protest and inquired if he was originally from Pakistan or India. It said that Dr Shah had refused to answer. Samaa TV said that it was therefore “inconceivable that a person claiming to be a Pakistani citizen not only participates in anti-Pakistan protests, but is also part of the crowd welcoming the Indian Prime Minister”, during his visit to the UK.

Ofcom concluded that the the comments made about Dr Shah in the programme were presented as facts that went unchallenged. Given this, we considered that these comments amounted to significant allegations about Dr Shah which had the potential to materially and adversely affect viewers’ opinions of him and which were presented in the programme in a way that was unfair to him.

Ofcom considered that, in the particular circumstances of this case, the broadcaster did not take reasonable care to satisfy itself that material facts had not been presented, disregarded or omitted in a way that was unfair to Dr Shah.

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