The police in Telangana’s capital Hyderabad on Thursday took into custody former TV9 chief executive officer and news website Tolivelugu’s founder Ravi Prakash in connection with a cheating case registered against him with the cyber crime wing, The New Indian Express reported. Prakash was arrested hours after being granted bail in a separate case. He was produced in a metropolitan magistrate court in Miyapur on Friday, and remanded in judicial custody till October 30.

The cyber crime branch had registered the case against Prakash in May on the basis of a complaint by a company called iVision Media India Private Limited, which is owned by iLabs Group. The company alleged that confidential documents about a case pending at the National Company Law Tribunal was sent to an outsider through email. The mail was sent by one of its employees identified as Natraj. However, since the firm did not have an employee by that name, it approached the police, alleging that information was being stolen and shared using fake email IDs.

The police registered a case, and found out that the mail was sent from an IP address allegedly accessed by Ravi Prakash.

Prakash was initially sent to prison on October 5 after the Banjara Hills Police registered cases against him and others for allegedly transferring Rs 6.36 crore from the accounts of Alanda Media and Entertainments, the new TV9 management, without the consent of the board of directors.

Tolivelugu interviews

On October 9, the Committee to Protect Journalists urged the Telangana government to immediately release Prakash. Two Tolivelugu reporters told the committee that Prakash was arrested three days after he refused to take down two interviews in which Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao and industrialist PV Krishna Reddy were accused of corruption.

The interviews, which are related to an ongoing strike by nearly 50,000 employees of the state transport corporation, were uploaded on the news website’s YouTube channel on September 30. In one video, a transport leader accused Rao and Reddy of being involved in a multi-million-dollar public transport scam. In the other interview, state Congress leader Mallu Bhatti Vikramarka accused the two of corruption in an irrigation project.

Tolivelugu reporter Narsimha Reddy told the international organisation of journalists that he received a WhatsApp message from an unknown number on October 2 asking for the YouTube setting of the second interview to be changed to “private”.

He then got a call from another number. The person on the line initially claimed to be from the state government, and then said the call was from the industrialist’s office. The caller warned him of consequences if both interviews were not removed. Prakash received a call from PV Krishna Reddy later that night, according to the reporter. However, he refused to take down the videos.

Journalist writes to Editors Guild of India

Meanwhile, journalist Vinod Kapri on Friday wrote to Editors Guild of India President Shekhar Gupta, saying he feared for Prakash’s life. Kapri said the Telangana High Court had issued a stay order in the funds transfer case. He alleged that the police took Prakash into custody on Thursday in order to harass him at the behest of the state government.

Kapri claimed cases had been filed against more than 500 journalists in the state, and alleged that the chief minister had taken the initiative to create an “Emergency-like situation” in the state. Kapri said the High Court had asked the Hyderabad Police to explain the new case against Prakash. The matter will be heard next on October 21.

“But my concern is Ravi’s safety inside the jail,” Kapri added. “I will really appreciate if Editors Guild of India take this matter to the competent authorities and get police instructed not to harass a senior journalist like this for their personal benefits.”

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