Continuing its vendetta against Republic TV, today Mumbai police questioned the CEO, COO and a senior officer of the distribution team of the channel for 20 hours in total. But shockingly, Mumbai police was more interested in know how Republic TV accessed the Hansa Research complaint that blew the lid off the lies peddled by Mumbai Police commissioner Param Bir Singh.
The police official had named Republic TV as the accused in the TRP scam case, accusing the channel of making payments to BARC panels homes to watch the channel. But the FIR filed in the case, and the complaint filed by Hansa Research, based on which the FIR was registered, had revealed that it was India Today which was named in both the documents, not Republic TV. But the Mumbai Police under the Shiv Sena led Maharashtra govt chose to shield India Today, and tried to Republic TV instead in the case, despite having no evidence.
Republic TV has issued a news release following the questioning of its officials by Mumbai police. The statement is reproduced below:
REPUBLIC NEWS RELEASE
Today our CEO, COO and senior member of our Distribution team were questioned by the Mumbai Police for 20 hours in all. *We are shocked to learn that in the course of questioning the Republic Media Network’s CEO Vikas Khanchandani, the Mumbai Police made multiple attempts to probe in detail as to how the Network accessed the Hansa Research Group Pvt Ltd. (‘Hansa’) complaint. Specific, repeated and detailed questioning went on about how Republic accessed the Hansa complaint report which blew the lid off the lies peddled against Republic Media Network.*
As everyone is aware, the Hansa Complaint report made *multiple mentions of India Today without a single reference to Republic TV, Republic Bharat or any affiliate of the Republic Media Network. The report which was bereft of any mention of Republic was the very basis of the FIR, and was put into the public domain by Republic on 10 October, 2020.*
*We believe that the very fact that the Mumbai Police was continually probing for Republic Media Network’s editorial sources stands in complete breach of the freedom of the press in India. We believe that it is inappropriate to probe any media organisation for its sources.* The Mumbai Police repeatedly asked our CEO how, when and from where the Network accessed the Hansa Complaint report. Our CEO informed the Mumbai Police that it is an editorial matter.
*Republic stands against any strongarm tactics to try and access the sources of an independent media. We consider the attempt to probe for Republic’s sources a SERIOUS INFRINGEMENT and UTTER VIOLATION to the right to report in a country with a free media.* If there is an attempt to use state machinery to scrutinise the sources of an independent media network and bring back an Emergency-style editorial control into the Media, we will stand strongly against it.
*Republic Media Network officially reiterates that, at any cost, we will not disclose our sources to the Mumbai Police, or anyone thereof, and will protect our democratic right as journalists. Republic will go through endless hours of questioning, but will not reveal its sources in order to uphold our journalistic rights.*
*If the Mumbai Police is uncomfortable with the fact that the Hansa complaint report is now in the public domain and, with it, crumbles the false narrative that was built against Republic, that does not give them the right to infringe upon the freedom of the press. We will protect our sources based on principle and editorial integrity, no matter what.*
*What is happening in Maharashtra and in Mumbai specifically today is a shocking case, before the world, of the state trying to muzzle a free press.* It is in complete contravention of the Constitutional right of a free press under Article 19 (1)(a) and serves as a terrible blot on the tenets of our great democracy. The Mumbai Police seems to be turning the freedom of the press in this great democracy upside down and we stand firmly against any such attempts.
The Republic Media Network will not give in to any endeavours to curtail editorial freedom, no matter who and how hard the attempt is on the other side.
Days after Mumbai police commissioner Param Bir Singh, in an explosive statement, accused Republic TV of ‘TRP manipulation’, Republic TV had accessed the 7-page Hansa research Group complaint, on the basis of which an FIR was registered in the TRP scam case. Contrary to the narrative put forth by the Mumbai Police, the complaint categorically mentions India Today on two occasions but does not make any reference to Republic TV or other channels.
The Hansa Research Group Pvt Ltd, the company that manages the Bar-o-meters of BARC that measures TV viewership, had filed the complaint against unknown persons and two of its employees, namely, Vishal Bhandari and Dinesh Vishwakarma. They were accused of making payments to households where the devices are installed to watch India Today for at least 2 hours a day.
The report matches with the FIR registered by the Mumbai Police on the complaint of Hans Research into TRP manipulation. The FIR, which came to hours after Mumbai Police Commissioner had named Republic TV, also mentions the name of India Today, accusing that money was paid to panel homes to watch the channel for 2 hours a day. Neither the complaint nor the FIR mentions the name of Republic TV, contrary to the claims of the commissioner.
But despite this revelation, Mumbai Police had continued to take action against Republic TV, while taking no action against India Today at all. Republic TV owner and editor Arnab Goswami had said that the channel will file a defamation case against Param Bir Singh for naming the channel in the case. The Chief Financial Officer of Republic TV, S Sundaram has also moved the Supreme Court challenging the summons issued to the network by the Mumbai Police in connection with the ‘Fake TRP’ case.