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Thursday, October 29, 2020

Odisha TV journalist picked up by police, channel says ‘targeted’ for exposing govt claim

While OTV alleged that the police specifically targeted the journalist — Ramesh Rath — for doing a series of operations “exposing” BJD government in the state, police denied the allegations and said no arrest was made.

Written by Aishwarya Mohanty | Bhubaneswar | Updated: October 16, 2020 6:34:55 am
While OTV alleged that the police specifically targeted the journalist — Ramesh Rath — for doing a series of operations “exposing” BJD government in the state, police denied the allegations and said no arrest was made. (File)

A senior journalist employed with regional news channel OTV was on Thursday picked up by the police in Odisha’s Keonjhar district over alleged involvement in a case of obscene video that was circulated online last year.

While OTV alleged that the police specifically targeted the journalist – Ramesh Rath – for doing a series of operations “exposing” BJD government in the state, police denied the allegations and said no arrest was made.

Sadar police station in-charge Jai Narayan Khandai said: “One of the accused who was arrested in the case and was serving jail term had informed us that the journalist had some video material pertaining to the case. Based on the statement, necessary actions were initiated. No arrests have been made yet.”

The FIR in the case names 11 people for allegedly circulating on social media an obscene video on a woman MP from BJD. They were later arrested.

The channel said the development comes “a day after OTV telecast an expose on Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik’s claims of an aerial survey of flood-hit areas (in August), which was based on an RTI revelations.”

It stated: “After two hours of picking him up from the middle of the road, a team of Keonjhar police, along with a team of Bhubaneswar Police Commissionerate, reached the OTV office along with Ramesh Rath and initiated a search. The team failed to provide any search warrant.”

Rath said: “They detained me for an old case and seized both my phones. They took me to Chandrasekharpur police station and gave me a notice to be present at police station in Keonjhar on October 21. Making allegations against me now in a case that is at least a year old, immediately a day after certain reports, cannot be a mere coincidence. Nevertheless, I will cooperate with the investigation.”

Majority shares in OTV is owned by BJP national vice-president Baijayant Panda’s family. Panda had quit BJD and joined the saffron party before 2019 General Election.

In a series of tweets, Panda stated, “Serious allegations by activists (with RTI accessed aviation documents) that Odisha CM Naveen Patnaik faked an August 31 helicopter aerial survey of flooded districts…. Reporter who broke news…arrested…”

The RTI-based report, as mentioned by the channel, had stated that on August 31 “only 1 helicopter of OSS Air Management had taken off from Bhubaneswar airport. The chopper took off and returned to the airport in 19 minutes which included a flight time of only nine and a half minutes.”

The RTI activist, based on the revelations, had raised questions that the time period is “too short to take off, conduct the survey and land at the airport in just 19 minutes”.

On the allegations regarding the RTI, airport director Suresh Chandra Hota said in a statement, “Actual flying time is 19 minutes excluding warm up time, startup time and apron and taxi time to the runway and return to apron after landing.”

The statement said, “The CM’s flight departed on 31.8.2020 at 1542 IST from Bhubaneswar and landed back at Bhubaneswar at 1601 IST. All the timings with respect to flight movements are in UTC only as per ICAO standards. To get IST timings 0530 hrs are added to UTC timings. AS per our SOP for handling of VVIP flights, VVIP means Honourable President, Vice President, Prime Minister of India and foreign heads of state/government.”

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