The Committee to Protect Journalists, a global journalism watchdog, has called Anil Ambani's Reliance Group suing NDTV for its reportage on the Rafale fighter jet deal a severe attack on press freedom and called for the conglomerate to "end its use of excessive civil defamation cases filed against critical news outlets".
"The ridiculously massive civil defamation claim Reliance Group has made against NDTV amounts to a severe attack on press freedom in India," said Steven Butler, the Committee to Protect Journalists' Asia program coordinator, in Washington, D.C.
He added that "India's judiciary must ensure that powerful business groups cannot abuse the country's legal system to silence critics."
The Committee reported that a Reliance Group spokesperson declined to respond to their request for a comment.
NDTV has been sued for Rs 10,000 crores by the Reliance Group in a court in Ahmedabad and the hearing has been listed for October 26. The lawsuit is filed against NDTV's weekly show, Truth vs Hype, which aired on September 29. Top executives of Reliance ignored repeated requests to appear on the show or comment on what is being widely discussed not just in India but in France as well - whether Anil Ambani's Reliance was transparently chosen as the partner for Dassault in a deal that saw India buying 36 fighter jets.
NDTV will argue in court that the charges of defamation are nothing more than a heavy-handed attempt by Anil Ambani's group to suppress the facts and prevent the media from doing its job - asking questions about a defence deal and seeking answers that are very much in public interest.
NDTV has said "As the Rafale deal has become a larger news story in India, the Reliance group has been on a notice-serving spree; to sue a news company for 10,000 crores in a court in Gujarat on false and frivolous charges, ignoring facts that are widely reported everywhere and not just by NDTV, can only be interpreted as an unsophisticated warning to the media to stop doing its job."
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