Mumbai Police Friday booked the executive editor, an anchor, two reporters and other editorial staff of Republic Media Network for broadcasting alleged defamatory news content against the police department.
Police said Republic channel aired news that would incite disaffection among police personnel against Commissioner of Police Param Bir Singh. The channel, police said, claimed Mumbai police personnel were rebelling against Param Bir Singh, and that his orders were not acceptable to them.
The channel, in a statement, said the “booking of all journalists of a news media organisation, left unchecked, will have a chilling effect on democracy, especially within the state of Maharashtra”.
This is the fourth case against Republic channel. Its editor-in-chief Arnab Goswami is facing two FIRs, registered at Pydhonie and NM Joshi Marg police stations, for allegedly inciting communal tension. A case relating to alleged fudging of TRPs is being probed by the Mumbai Crime Branch while chapter proceedings against Goswami have been initiated separately by police.
The new FIR, under section 3 (1) of The Police (Incitement to Disaffection) Act, 1922, and IPC sections 500 (defamation) and 34 (common intention), is against Republic TV anchor Shivani Gupta, reporter Sagarika Mitra, reporter Shawan Sen, executive editor Niranjan Narayanaswamy, and other editorial staff.
Police said that the case was registered after police sub-inspector Shashikant Pawar, posted at the Social Media Lab (SML) of Special Branch-1, approached NM Joshi Marg police station with a complaint Friday.
An officer said the SML monitors contents on social media and television channels. “They are supposed to identify posts that are fake and also content that can create disharmony amongst the people, and they are expected to record and present it to their superiors,” the officer said.
According to police, sub-inspector Pawar, after witnessing a 10-minute show aired between 7 pm and 7.10 pm Thursday on Republic Television, reached NM Joshi Marg police station Friday afternoon since the SML office is in the area under its jurisdiction.
“The complainant said that he saw a news on Republic TV (English) which showed that Mumbai police personnel are rebelling against Param Bir Singh and his orders are not acceptable to them. In the news report, they also said that it is affecting the credibility of Mumbai Police,” an officer from NM Joshi Marg police station said.
The complainant, in his statement, said the anchor and the reporter also said that Singh is tarnishing the image of the Mumbai Police, and that this was aired without any valid proof.
The news, the complainant said, ran under a segment ‘Biggest Story Tonight’ and the TV screen had a caption ‘Revolt Against Param Bir? Senior officers part of the probe give details’.
Police said the channel authorities were intentionally trying to incite disaffection amongst Mumbai police personnel against the police commissioner.
The channel, in its statement, said: “In a brazen abuse of office, the Mumbai Police has booked the — “Editorial staff and Newsroom Incharge for the concerned report getting aired and others” — at the Republic Media Network. This comes as the most grave attack on the freedom of press safeguarded under Article 19 (1)(a) of the Constitution of India.”
“This booking of all journalists of a news media organisation, left unchecked, will have a chilling effect on democracy, especially within the state of Maharashtra,” it stated.
“While Param Bir Singh may be cornered and uncomfortable with the fact that his elaborately crafted lies against Republic are falling apart before the people of India in the face of the truth and real facts, he seems to be using that as a basis for undertaking his large-scale witch-hunt against Republic Media Network’s journalists. Republic’s Editorial staff stands together and in firm opposition to the intimidation tactics deployed by the Param Bir Singh-led Mumbai Police,” the channel said.
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