The Committee to Protect Journalists on Friday condemned the Anil Ambani-owned Reliance Group’s defamation case against NDTV, asking it to end its excessive use of civil defamation cases against critical news outlets. In a statement on Thursday, the news channel had said that Ambani’s group has sued it for Rs 10,000 crore over its coverage of the Rafale jet deal.
The defamation lawsuit was filed after an episode of NDTV’s weekly show Truth vs Hype that aired on September 29. The matter has been listed for hearing on October 26.
NDTV denied the charges and said it will argue in court that they are “a heavy-handed attempt by Anil Ambani’s group to suppress the facts and prevent the media from doing its job – asking questions about a defence deal and seeking answers that are very much in public interest”.
“The ridiculously massive civil defamation claim Reliance Group has made against NDTV amounts to a severe attack on press freedom in India,” Committee to Protect Journalists’ Asia Program Coordinator Steven Butler said on Friday. “India’s judiciary must ensure that powerful business groups cannot abuse the country’s legal system to silence critics.”
The United States-based non-governmental organisation pointed out that the Reliance Group had repeatedly ignored NDTV’s requests to participate in the show or submit a written response. The panel also said that the Reliance Group had filed a defamation suit for Rs 5,000 crore against Congress mouthpiece National Herald.
The Committee to Protect Journalists added that a spokesperson for the Reliance Group refused to respond to its request for comment.