The Times Group on Monday filed a complaint with the Chennai Commissioner of Police over harassment faced by journalist Komal Gautham, a senior correspondent with Times of India, Chennai. The group has requested the commissioner to take serious note of the matter and initiate appropriate actions against those involved.
What’s the case?
On September 7, Times Now had done a story raising questions on Tamil Nadu minister SP Velumani using his position to secure contracts for his “kin”. In the report, a corporation contractor Chandra Prakash, Managing Director of KCP Engineers Private Limited, was also named. It is this contractor, who had sent abusive messages to Gautham. Prakash has also levelled bribery charges against the journalist.
It is to be noted that the story was done by Times Now; not Gautham, a Times of India employee. This is also clarified in the complaint. “The Times of India has nothing to do with the September 7 expose.” Times Now and Times of India are different organisations working independently, though they are part of the Bennett, Coleman and Company Limited (BCCL) conglomerate, the complaint adds.
Nearly an hour after the airing of this report, Chandra Prakash texted Gautham accusing her of asking for bribes. He also referred to her as “podi lossu” (loosely translated as mad person) and “cheap”.
Following this, on September 8, Chandra Prakash also called up Times of India‘s senior assistant editor and Chief of Bureau at Coimbatore, M Mayilvaganan, levelling more charges against the journalist. Mayilvaganan is Gautham’s former boss. While working out of the Coimbatore office, Gautham had reported on the corruption in Coimbatore corporation, allegedly involving Velumani’s brother Anbarasu.
To speak out against the allegations made by Chandra Prakash, Gautam took to Twitter. In her tweet, she called out Velumani and his associates for defaming her. “These corrupt people claim I’m corrupt & I went to Times now. They sent me abusive texts & threaten Me. They think this will scare us & stop us 4m exposing corruption,” she stated.
Speaking to Newslaundry, Gautham said the bribery allegations are an attempt to label her as corrupt — an old tactic used to threaten journalists. She added, “Funny part is, I’m not at all involved in this. They think that Times Now and Times of India are the same and that I shared all documents and I made them [Times Now] do it [the story].”
In its complaint, the group has sought action against those involved, including the role played by Chandra Prakash. “The latest bout of verbal abuse, use of obscene words, using social media platform, WhatsApp to use derogatory, abusive and obscene words against a woman journalist, and threat issued to the journalists of The Times of India has a pattern giving credence to the suspicion of the active role played by contractor Chandraprakash,” the complaint states.
This is not the first instance where a journalist has been abused for simply doing their work. Earlier this year, a deputy director of Unique Identification Authority of India had registered a first information report against The Tribune and its reporter, Rachna Khaira, following a report on anonymous sellers providing access to Aadhaar numbers for a fee.
In December 2016, the Mamata Banerjee government had filed an FIR against Zee News‘ Sudhir Chaudhary, reporter Pooja Mehta and cameraperson Tanmay Mukherjee for covering Dhulagarh riots.