Two senior journalists of Zee News have been arrested in New Delhi in connection with a sting operation that was carried out by steel tycoon and Congress MP Naveen Jindal who accused the channel of extortion.
Sudhir Chaudhary, the head of Zee News, and Samir Ahluwalia, the head of Zee Business, were arrested on Tuesday evening by the Crime Branch of Delhi Police following the registration of an extortion case about 45 days ago on a complaint by Mr Jindal's company. The MP has alleged that the channel had tried to extort Rs. 100 crore in exchange for not airing unfavourable stories linking him and his group to the recent coal scam. The journalists will be produced in a court in Saket today.
On October 25, Mr Jindal had released a video recording of meetings with executives of Zee TV and claimed this to be proof that they were trying to extort money from him. Mr Jindal said the news channel told his company's executives that if they did not spend Rs. 100 crore on advertising, the channel would run negative stories on allocation of coal fields to his firm.
Mr Jindal said the "extortion attempt" was caught on a hidden camera; he released CDs of this footage to reporters. The 'reverse sting' was carried out between September 13 and 19 over four meetings in different locations in Delhi.
The channel, which is promoted by Subhash Chandra, vehemently denied all allegations of extortion levelled against it and described the arrests as a "crude and direct attack on the freedom of the press". (Read)
It accused the Jindal Steel and Power Limited (JSPL), owned by the Congress MP, of "using state machinery, controlled by the Congress party both at the Centre and Delhi, to muzzle voices of dissent and interfere with the legitimate rights of the Media to divert attention and cloud its illegalities and misdeeds which these editors in the channel sought to highlight in public interest, highlighting the corruption in the coal gate scam after being indicted by CAG, and being investigated by the CBI."
Zee News had earlier cited the report of the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) that has named JSPL as one of the beneficiaries of the
allocation that was done bypassing auctions.
The media group had also sent a Rs. 150-crore defamation notice to Mr Jindal, alleging that latter had wrongly accused it of blackmailing and extortion.
(With inputs from Agencies)