Even as folks at Newslaundry rejoiced at the systematic witch-hunting of Arnab Goswami and his news channel Republic TV, one of their own journalist and their own organisation is subjected to a similar kind of harassment for reporting about Shard Pawar-owned Sakal Media Group.
The leading Marathi media house, run by Sharad Pawar’s nephew, Abhijit Pawar, has filed an FIR against a Newslaundry journalist and slapped the leftist rag with Rs 65 crore defamation suit for publishing “false” and “defamatory” reports.
Newslaundry’s Prateek Goyal had published a report on March 27 that Sakal Times, a Marathi daily newspaper run by Sakal Media Group, has sacked 15 of its employees in violation of a government directive to not terminate employees during the pandemic.
About two and a half months ago, Sakal Times laid off its entire 50-60 editorial staff. This was also reported by Newslaundry in a report published on June 11. A few days later, a Rs 65 crore defamation suit was filed against Newslaundry by Sakal Media Pvt. Ltd. The Pawar family-owned media house alleged that Newslaundry’s report was false and defamatory in nature.
According to Newslaundry, they had sent questions asking the Sakal group to point out the facts which they thought were disputable. However, Newslaundry claims that instead of highlighting the inaccuracies in their report, Sakal Media filed an FIR against Prateek Goyal. The complaint was filed on September 16 by a certain Mahendra Pisal, who identified himself as Chief Administrative Officer of Sakal Media Pvt. Ltd.
Prateek has been accused in the FIR of not seeking the information from the Sakal Media Group before publishing and using its logo in a “cunning” manner. On the day the FIR was filed against him, Pune police visited Prateek’s home to arrest him. Though he was able to secure an anticipatory bail, the police still want to seize his laptop. claimed NewsLaundry.
Sakal Media Group is owned by the politically influential Pawar family. The board of the directors of the organisation is headed by Pratap Pawar, the brother of NCP supremo Sharad Pawar. Supriya Sule, daughter of Sharad Pawar, also sits on the board. The Managing Director of the media group is Abhijit Pawar, son of Pratap Pawar and the nephew of Sharad Pawar.
Sharad Pawar is one of the most important alliance partner in Maha Vikas Aghadi government in Maharashtra, which has demonstrated its willingness to go after the news organisations who do not toe its line.
Maha Vikas Aghadi’s government’s relentless hounding of the Arnab Goswami-owned Republic TV, as Newslaundry rejoiced
This hounding of Prateek and Newslaundry by police at the behest of Pawar’s media house is reminiscent of Republic TV’s predicament in Maharashtra. The freedom of press under the Maha Vikas Aghadi government in Maharashtra is shrinking rapidly.
Republic TV has been under a ruthless attack for its unflattering coverage of the government. Mumbai Police Commissioner had recently convened a press conference in which it named Republic TV for manipulating TRPs. Later it was revealed that India Today’s name was mentioned in the TRP manipulation complaint and not of Republic TV. It was also alleged the witness in the case was coerced into taking Republic TV’s name.
Before that, Mumbai Police had also arrested a Republic TV journalist and camera person for pursuing a story in Navi Mumbai. Another Republic TV journalist Pradeep Bhandari was circled by Mumbai Police personnel and illegally detained.
Prior to that Arnab Goswami was subjected to a severe interrogation for over more than 11 hours for his prime time show in which he had raised questions on Sonia Gandhi’s silence on the lynching of Hindu sadhus in Palghar. A complaint was also lodged against Republic TV for its coverage of migrant issues at Bandra station.
While Newslaundry celebrated and cheered the unabated hounding of the Republic TV by the Mumbai Police, the chickens have come home to roost as Sakal Media House, owned by Pawar family, gets Pune Police to act against Newslaundry and its journalist.
When Republic was being hunted by the Mumbai Police, the co-founder of Newslaundry was mocking Arnab Goswami instead of talking about the witch-hunt.
Republic TV is basically that Hindustani bhau type ranty video blogs/ you tube channel with a Karan Johar budget. Every day they are ranting about how wonderful they are and horrible the world is.— Abhinandan Sekhri (@AbhinandanSekhr) October 19, 2020
NewsLaundry has, in fact, not published a single article where they point out the discrepancies in what the Mumbai Police is accusing Republic of or even a customer article where they question the Maharashtra government for their incessant witch-hunt against the channel. In fact, Newslaundry was instrumental in launching an assault targeting the advertisers of Republic TV and getting it defunded.
Freedom of the press is stifled, individual rights trampled upon in Maharashtra under Maha Vikas Aghadi government
The Freedom of the press is not the only casualty of the Maha Vikas Aghadi government in Maharashtra. Gradually, individual rights are also being trampled upon.
Recently, a social media user, Sameet Thakkar, was recently rearrested by Mumbai Police after a Nagpur Court granted him bail. He has been arrested for making critical remarks against Maharashtra CM Uddhav Thackeray and his son, Maharashtra Environment Minister, Aaditya Thackeray.
Moments after Nagpur Court granted him bail, he was arrested by Mumbai VP Road police from the court premises and conveyed to Mumbai. The government has shown unabashed zeal in stifling dissent and going against the media organisations who have dared to bring forth uncomfortable realities.