RIM CEO Storms Out of Interview on India Question

By Fahmida Y. Rashid  |  Posted 2011-04-14 Print this article Print

Mike Lazaridis, the co-CEO of Research in Motion, abruptly terminated an interview with BBC when he was asked about RIM's problems in India and the Middle East over the BlackBerry. Lazaridis called the question unfair, and based on the video of the interview available on a BBC blog, he just may be right.

The 89-second clip being passed around has been heavily edited, and paints Lazaridis as petulant and defensive.

It's all about context.

The interviewer, Rory Cellan-Jones, asked if Lazaridis could assure BlackBerry users in the Middle East and India that there wouldn't be any service disruptions.

"It's over. The interview's over," Lazaridis said in response and then pointed at the camera and snapped, "Turn that off."

Cellan-Jones was referring to the difficulties RIM had with India last year regarding the security measures in place on the BlackBerry platform. India and several Middle Eastern countries threatened to ban the mobile device because its encryption technology didn't comply with national law. The platform is designed in such a way that only the enterprise has access to the BlackBerry content--even RIM doesn't know what people are doing on those devices. This wasn't acceptable to India, as the law required the government to be able to have access to all electronic communications.

RIM came to an agreement with each of the countries, although it has refused to divulge details.

Cellan-Jones didn't say any of that. Instead, he asked the following question:

Can I move onto the problems that you've had in terms of security and the various arguments you've had with the Indian government and the government from the Middle East? Is that anywhere near being sorted out?

By phrasing it as "security problems," Cellan-Jones was making it sound like the BlackBerry was insecure. When Lazaridis said that it wasn't a security issue but a "national security" issue, he was entirely correct.

Lazaridis said RIM had been "singled out" and said the company doesn't currently have a security problem.

Lazaridis should have kept his cool and just pointed out that the dispute has been resolved and that Indian customers continue to use the BlackBerry in the country. In fact, none of the countries that initially waved the ban flag have gone through with the threat--BlackBerry users in United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia never experienced any service interruptions over this dispute.

Sure, a CEO of a major company shouldn't blow up and go out of control during a media interview, but the question could have easily been rephrased after the initial outburst.

The Next Web's Brad McCarty said it best:

Regardless of Lazaridis' reaction, I have to side that The BBC displayed a lack of journalistic integrity in posting only a section of the video, and doing so without any explanation.

The segment was part of a larger interview which would air later this month on BBC Click.

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