TV Today Network, which owns the news channels India Today and Aaj Tak, has filed a defamation suit against Newslaundry, its management and senior editorial staff and sought damages of Rs 2,00,00,100 from them for “commercially disparaging” its commercial products and for “defaming” it, its news anchors, management and employees.
Newslaundry has uploaded various videos on its website and the social media platforms wherein it “has infringed” on TV Today Network’s copyrights, “made untrue, unfair, disparaging as well as maliciously defamatory remarks” about the news, reporting and news anchors of the news channels operated by it as well as management of the media group, alleges the suit.
Alleging that Newslaundry has reproduced or published various portions of original works and telecasts from its news channels, TV Today Network has said that that “use of such material by the defendants is therefore an infringement of the copyright of the plaintiff in its news broadcasts” under the Copyright Act, 1957.
Besides Newslaundry Media Private Limited, its co-founder Abhinandan Sekhri, Director Prashant Sareen, Director Roopak Kappor, Executive Editor Manisha Pande, Correspondent Ayush Tiwari, Columnist Hridayesh Joshi and Executive Editors Atul Chaurasia and Raman Kirpal have been made as defendants in the case. Pande and Chaurasia host two popular Newslaundry shows – TV Newsance and NL Tippani, where they critique media reporting.
The defendants have “lowered the reputation” of TV Today Network in the eyes of the right thinking citizens of the society as well as have “denigrated, derogated and depreciated” the media group, its news channels and its products, the suit alleges. The media group has sought a permanent injunction against the nine defendants and also sought a direction for takedown of the videos, tweets and news articles in question.
“The said Defendants have repeatedly asserted in their various videos that news telecast by the Plaintiff is biased because the Plaintiff accepts revenues in the form of advertisements from corporate houses. This cannot be further from the truth. The plaintiff company and the India Today Group have always been an independent agency and have no political or corporate affiliations,” TV Today Network has said in the suit.
An impression has been created that TV Today Network and its publications are involved in broadcasting and publishing fake news and spreading communal disharmony in the public, alleges the suit. “The allegations and vitriolic remarks made by the Defendants are untrue and unfair commercial statements only with the intent to increase Defendant No. 1’s [Newslaundry] market share in the digital news industry,” the media group has alleged.
TV Today Network had recently made copyright strikes against the videos uploaded by Newslaundry on Youtube after which the news portal’s channel on the video-sharing platform was blocked. The matter related to the channel and Newslaundry’s videos is currently pending with Youtube. TV Today Network has in the suit stated that Newslaundry has now started uploading its videos on other platforms.
Sekhri, the Newslaundry co-founder and one of the defendants in the case, said that reporting on someone is not defamatory and people like management of India Today are not used to being held accountable. They are only used to holding others accountable, he added.
“What is alarming to me is that these are the people who are supposed to stand up for a free press and freedom of speech. India Today, which prides itself as a self-congratulatory, fantastic news brand, if this is their understanding of free press and freedom of speech, it explains the dismal state of media,” he told The Indian Express.
Sekhri also said that they have faced defamation suits in the past too for their reports on media channels. “Media has so got used to being at a top of the pyramid, reporting on everyone from politicians to bureaucrats to judiciary to industrialists to actors and their children, suddenly if they are being reported on, it is a very new alien feeling to them which they are not used to but they will have to get used to,” he added