Zee News remarks unfortunate: JSPL
Leading steel and energy company Jindal Steel and Power Limited (JSPL) on Wednesday criticised media group Zee Network for calling the arrest of its two journalists a 'Black Day for the media' and said the remarks were 'unfortunate'.
"Law is taking its own course - There was a criminal extortion and intimidation case registered against Zee News Limited (Zee Business and Zee News Channel) for which there would be the legal process taking its logical steps," said JSPL in a statement.
"Being a part of the media space (in fact its black sheep) does not and cannot provide a cover - Law of the land is same for everybody and the editors of Zee Channels enjoy no extra privileges. The shield of the omnibus term 'media' should not be made available to those who have in fact been responsible for bringing this reverent term to discredit," it said.
"Zee News's comment that the arrest of its editors is a Black Day for the media is unfortunate. The arrest of the two journalists being termed Black Day is rather demeaning the credibility of media. Instead, Black day was the day when these editors tried to extort 100 crore rupees from Jindal group under the garb of media," JSPL said.
"Recently, when two employees of India TV were arrested by the police on charges of extortion, India TV management expelled them from the channel. But why did Zee News not take steps against its two editors even after they were arrested by the police. This clearly shows that there was a nexus between these two editors and Zee News's management," read the statement.
Slamming Zee News, JSPL said: "Earlier, Zee News questioned the genuinity of Jindal group's sting against its editors. And now that CFSL's report has confirmed that the CD produced by Jindal group is genuine, Zee News is saying why were its editors arrested on the basis of CFSL report. By doing this Zee News is questioning the investigating agencies of our country."
"Have the owners of Zee News got notices from Delhi police? If yes, then why are they trying to duck investigations? - This raises a lot of doubts!" it said.
"Media is the fourth pillar of democracy. But today this incident has put a question mark on the media," the statement said.
"Earlier Zee News had been heaping fictitious, false and baseless charges against Jindal Group and now after the arrest of its two editors, it has started painting Delhi Police and investigating agencies as suspects.
"The channel has decided to become both jury and judge in a case against itself and its important functionaries. This is a classic case of culprits daring the cops," JSPL said.
Attacking Sudhir Chaudhary, the head of Zee News, JSPL said: "An editor like Sudhir Chaudhary who had abused media in cases like Uma Khurana and was instrumental in putting Live India Channel into the dock that led to a ban against it now took to arm-twisting, extortion and money-making in absolute disregard to the high position of The Editor of 'Zee News'."
"The arrest of the two editors proves that the news that Zee News was showing against Jindal Group had no truth in it and was simply meant to wrest Rs 100 crores by holding the group to ransom through its motivated news programmes that were meant to malign and sully the name and image of the group," it said.
JSPL made the comments on a day when Zee Network on Wednesday said the arrests of two senior journalists of Zee News channel over charges of trying to extort Rs 100 crore from Congress MP and industrialist Naveen Jindal by manipulating their reportage on the alleged coal block allocation scam, were 'illegal'.
Zee News said the arrests were an attempt by the 'Congress-led government' to gag the media.
"After 65 years of independence, the present Congress-led government is pushing the media to not speak the truth and to gag it. It is practically the Emergency revisited in India on November 27, 2012, a day that will also be known as a black day in Indian history," read a Zee News statement.
"While the matter is sub-judice before the honourable High Court of Bombay, to circumvent the judicial process and the orders of the honourable High Court, the Delhi Police, at the behest of a Congress MP, orchestrated the arrests of two senior editors of Zee News, Samir Ahluwalia and Sudhir Chowdhary, on the basis of a fraudulent and contrived complaint filed on behalf of his company, Jindal Steel and Power Limited (JSPL)," the statement said.
"The arrests have been made to sensationalise the issue and to lend a cover to the coal scam and in particular to favour Naveen Jindal, Congress MP, and his company JSPL," it said.
Zee News said: "The first information report (FIR) registered against the two editors and others is nothing but a clever attempt to divert attention from JSPL's own role in the coal scam, which was exposed by the CAG and is being investigated by the CBI."
"The channel vehemently denies all allegations levelled against it. The channel strongly condemns the arbitrary and illegal action of the Delhi Police in arresting its two editors and for initiating a malicious, illegal and motivated prosecution. We wish to reiterate that no offence has been committed by members of the Zee News staff," it said.
Attacking Jindal, Alok Agarwal, the Chief Executive Officer of Zee News, said the Congress MP tried to bribe the channel's executives.
"The fact is that Naveen Jindal tried to bribe first the executives and then the Zee Channel not to publish the story," Agarwal said while addressing a press conference on Wednesday.
"We raised key issues relating to coal block allocations. Instead on answering queries of Zee News team, Naveen Jindal decided to file FIR," Agarwal said.
"This was an act of political pressure. The police are being forced to act on the matter under pressure from Naveen Jindal and his associates," he said.
Meanwhile, Naveen Jindal on the same day refused to comment on the matter.
"This is a sub-judice matter. The Delhi Police is investigating the case," Jindal told media.
"I do not wish to make any comments," he said.
The arrests of Sudhir Chaudhary, the head of Zee News, and Samir Ahluwalia, the head of Zee Business, on Tuesday came on charges of extortion came following the registration of a case around 45 days ago on a police complaint filed by Jindal's company.
Last month Zee News said it had filed a Rs 150 crore defamation suit against Jindal for the "unsubstantiated and defamatory allegations", in a counter-punch to the latter's Rs 200 crore case against the private broadcaster.
While Zee's suit came following an expose by JSPL that published purported audio-video evidence of an attempt to extort money in return of quashing negative reportage, Jindal had sued the news channel over the same issue.
Zee News has denied accusations levelled by Jindal that the private broadcaster had tried to blackmail him.