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Zee News terms arrest of its journalists 'illegal'

Posted on Nov 28, 08:01PM | UNI

Denying all allegations of extortion levelled against it by Congress MP Naveen Jindal, Zee News today said the arrest of its two senior journalists was "illegal and a direct attack on the freedom of the press." Zee News CEO Alok Agrawal, at a news conference, accused Delhi Police of acting at the behest of Mr Jindal.

The channel accused Mr Jindal, also a steel tycoon, of trying to divert attention from Coalgate.

Denying allegations of attempt to extort Rs 100 crore from Jindal Power and Steel Ltd for not airing news reports related to the company in an alleged coal block allocation scam, Mr Agrawal claimed that it was the Congress MP who offered money as bribe to Zee editors first and then to the company.

Senior journalists of Zee News Sudhir Chaudhary and Samir Ahluwalia were arrested last night on the complaint by Mr Jindal's company filed in October.

Questioning the arrest and its timing, Mr Agrawal and Zee News lawyer RK Handoo said the detentions were deliberately made before a holiday so that regular bail could be denied.

"What was the need for the arrest. It was designed for something else. It is a nefarious gameplan," Mr Handoo said.

Zee News claimed that Mr Jindal tried to influence several senior Zee officials not only directly but also through various people, including senior politicians and some chief ministers.

"Mr Jindal and Zee officials had a total conversation of six hours over half a dozen meetings and if any one was to take out only five minute of these conversations it can be distorted in any manner," Mr Agrawal said.

Zee News also asked why the arrest was made when both the journalists were fully cooperating with the investigation from the beginning.

Reacting to the development, Mr Jindal said, "The matter is subjudice. Delhi Police is investigating the matter. I will not comment on this." Mr Jindal had accused the two Zee News journalists of trying to extort Rs 100 crore worth of advertisements from his company in return for dropping stories linking the Jindal Group with Coalgate.