A day after Odisha Police picked up senior OTV journalist Ramesh Rath, today the police surrounded the premises of Odisha TV. The assault on the Odia media house by Odisha police came after OTV had published a report based on RTI replies that questioned the aerial survey of flood hit areas done by CM Naveen Patnaik in August this year.
According to reports, a team of police has been parked in front pf the premises of OTV since last night. The police arrived for a search operation, but when asked they said that they do not have a warrant for the same. When officials in the media house asked the police if they have a warrant, the Inspector of Keonjhar police station said that Police have powers to enter and search as part of an investigation without warrants.
The police also said that they leave only after searching the premises.
Speaking to Republic TV, R Mishra, News Editor of OTV said, “This is not the first time that OTV is being targeted. Ramesh Rath was the journalist who broke the news about the RTI response on CM Naveen Patnaik’s aerial survey. After a day, while he was on his way to the office, Keonjhar police picks him up in a van and they cease his two mobile phones and drags him to the Police station. No one is informed why is he been booked, whether they have an FIR lodged against him. Our anchor informed us about the incident, so we confirmed from the Commissioner of Police.” He alleged that OTV is being targeted individually.
Obscene clip case
Keonjhar police have said that Ramesh Rath was picked up for questioning in a case related to the circulation of an obscene clip during the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, and not due to the OTV story on the CM’s aerial survey. Police said that Rath’s name came up in the probe, alleging that he is the one who provided video details. Police also said that Rath was released within a few hours after questioning.
Talking about the 2019 case, R Mishra said that the case pertains to an obscene video clip of a female BJD leader. Two OTV journalists and few BJP leaders were involved in it, and the media house had cooperated during the investigation, he said. But now the Keonjhar police came to the OTV office yesterday and said that they will search the office premises without warrant.
The RTI expose
On 14th October, OTV had aired a report questioning the aerial survey of the flood-hit areas by the CM. Based on replies to an RTI query, the media house had claimed that the official records of helicopter operations does not support the claim that CM had conducted the aerial survey.
CM Naveen Patnaik had conducted an aerial survey of the flood-hit districts in the state on 31st August, and had announced financial assistance to the affected families. However, RTI replies accessed by OTV had shown that only one helicopter of OSS Air Management had taken off from the Bhubaneswar Airport and it was in the air for only 19 minutes.
They had also mentioned that there was no VVIP movement on that particular day, as per the response to the RTI query. Based on these observations, OTV had raised question on the aerial survey done by the CM.
OTV report refuted by AAI
However, the OTV’s claims were rejected by the Airport Authority of India (AAI), saying the CM indeed conducted the aerial survey on that day. AAI said that contrary to the claim by OTV, 19 minutes was the actual flying time, and it didn’t include warm-up time, startup time at apron and taxi time to runway and return to apron after landing. It also said that as per SOP for the handling of VVIP flights, VVIP means the President, Vice President, Prime Minister of India and Foreign Heads of state/Govt. Chief ministers are not classified as VVIPs, and therefore Naveen Patnaik’s aerial survey was not categorised as VVIP travel, AAI said.