Republic TV has served a legal notice to The Indian Express for its article reporting that former Chief Executive Officer of Broadcast Audience Research Council Partho Dasgupta said in a written statement to the police that he had allegedly been bribed by the channel’s Editor-in-Chief Arnab Goswami to manipulate television ratings, Live Law reported on Tuesday.
The allegations are part of the supplementary chargesheet of the Mumbai Police in the TRP scam case, but do not have evidentiary value.
“You [the newspaper] have acted as a judge, jury and executioner in breach of all journalistic ethics,” the notice said, Live Law reported. The notice added that the newspaper’s headline for the story was “squarely deliberate and mischievous”.
The channel claimed that Dasgupta’s statement to the Mumbai Police about the alleged bribe was “extracted under coercion and duress”. It said the newspaper failed to mention that the statement is inadmissible as evidence and that Dasgupta has denied the claims.
In fact, the newspaper clarified in its strapline below the headline that the statement could not be used as legal evidence since it had not been made before a magistrate.
Republic TV accused the newspaper of trying to tarnish its reputation. “The news report is a vile, hateful, malicious attempt by you and part of a severely prejudicial campaign engineered and implemented by the India Express against our clients and aimed at attempting to irreparably destroy their reputation as well as the reputation of the Republic Media network,” the legal notice said.
The TV channel demanded that The Indian Express offer it an unconditional apology and stop publishing “fake and unsubstantiated news” against it. The TV channel also warned the newspaper of criminal action in case it does not comply with the notice within 24 hours, according to Bar and Bench.
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On Monday, The Indian Express had reported that Dasgupta had told the police that he received $12,000 (Rs 8.77 lakh approximately) from Goswami for two holidays and also a sum of Rs 40 lakh over three years for manipulating television ratings in his channel’s favour.
The Mumbai Police chargesheet also included the purported WhatsApp chats between the two, which has triggered a political controversy. The chats revealed that three days before the Balakot strike, Goswami had told Dasgupta that it would be “bigger than a normal strike”.
Details from those transcripts – which have not so far been denied by Goswami – also exposed how Goswami and Dasgupta had extensively discussed ways to rig Republic TV’s ratings. The messages also show close proximity and coordination between Goswami’s TV channel and BJP leaders, including ministers. These include someone named “AS”, as also the “PMO”, presumably the Prime Minister’s Office.
On February 26, 2019, the Indian Air Force carried out a strike targeting a Jaish-e-Mohammad training camp in the Pakistani town of Balakot. It was billed as India’s response to an attack on February 14, 2019, in Pulwama in Jammu and Kashmir, in which 40 Central Reserve Police Force personnel were killed after an explosive-laden car driven by a suicide bomber rammed into their bus.