The Mumbai Police on Friday filed a fresh first information report against news channel Republic TV and booked its executive editor, anchor, two reporters and other editorial staff members for allegedly inciting disaffection among its personnel against Commissioner of Police Param Bir Singh, the Hindustan Times reported.
This FIR, the fourth registered by the Mumbai Police against Republic TV, was filed by the Special Branch-1, the intelligence wing of the force, at the NM Joshi Marg Police Station. The complainant, Shashikant Pawar, is a sub-inspector who works at the Social Media Lab of the Mumbai Police.
The Social Media Lab has the function on monitoring content on social media platforms and television channels and identifying posts, fake news, rumours and other content that has potential to create unrest or communal violence in Mumbai.
The FIR said that officials at the Social Media Lab found that on October 10, Republic TV telecast a show under the segment Biggest Story Tonight, with the caption: “Revolt Against Param Bir Singh? Senior officer part of the probe gives details”. Incidentally, on October 22, Republic World website ran a story: “Revolt Brewing Within Mumbai Police Against Param Bir Singh; Officers Lash Out Off Record”.
The report said that a senior officer in the Mumbai Police had claimed that Singh was “bent on destroying the credibility of the force”, and admitted that the force was pursuing its chief’s agenda against Republic TV in the Television Rating Points scam case. The news item telecast on October 10 also claimed that Singh has been tarnishing the image of the Mumbai Police and that his orders are not acceptable to junior officers, the Hindustan Times reported.
“By broadcasting such content, the channel and its journalists intentionally tried to incite disaffection among the police personnel against the police commissioner and the act also maligns Mumbai Police’s image,” the complainant said in the FIR. The show was anchored by Shivani Gupta and reporter Sagarika Mitra based on information gathered by reporter Shawan Sen.
Apart from Gupta, Mitra and Sen, the Mumbai Police also booked show editor Niranjan Narayanswamy and other editorial staff. They all have been charged with section 3 (1) of The Police (Incitement to Disaffection) Act, 1922, and Sections 500 (defamation) and 34 (common intention) of the Indian Penal Code.
The TRP row
A fake TRP racket was uncovered earlier in October when the Broadcast Audience Research Council filed a complaint through Hansa Research Group, alleging that certain television channels were rigging TRP numbers. Hansa Research is one of BARC’s vendors on engagement with panel homes, or “people’s meters”. Republic TV, Box Cinema and Marathi channel Fakt Marathi were accused of TRP manipulation during the preliminary investigation.
Last week, the Broadcast Audience Research Council decided to pause weekly ratings for news channels for three months and review its measurement system, amid a row over the alleged manipulation of TRP.
On October 14, Republic TV’s Executive Editor Niranjan Narayanaswamy and Senior Executive Editor Abhishek Kapoor appeared before the crime branch of the Mumbai Police to record their statements in the case.
Earlier this week, Former Assistant Commissioner of Police Iqbal Shaikh filed a civil case seeking to restrain Republic TV and its Editor-in-Chief Arnab Goswami from airing any material related to the TRP scam case.