Republic vs Mumbai police: Channel gets another notice seeking contact details of employees

Adding to the drama was a press statement released earlier today by Hansa Vision, not to be confused with Hansa Research.

ByPrateek Goyal
Republic vs Mumbai police: Channel gets another notice seeking contact details of employees
Anubhooti Gupta
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The row between Republic and the Mumbai police scaled new heights last week when the police filed an FIR against the channel’s editorial staff for purportedly “defaming” the police.

More recently, the police sent Republic a second notice on October 29 in the context of a complaint filed at the NM Joshi Marg police station against Republic’s story on a “revolt” brewing against Param Bir Singh, the Mumbai police commissioner.

The notice sought contact details and job responsibilities of Republic’s employees, including those who worked on the broadcasting of the story. It demanded the script read by the anchor during the story, sources told Newslaundry, and an original recording of the programme. According to the Indian Express, four persons affiliated to the channel were also interrogated by the police.

Republic had been named by the Mumbai police earlier this month as being part of a TRP manipulation scam. TRPs are measured through “barometers” installed in select houses; the police alleged that Republic, among others, paid money to homeowners in whose houses barometers were installed, in order to “manipulate” the ratings.

Adding to this saga is a statement issued on October 30 by Hansa Vision. Hansa Vision, a part of the Hansa Group, is a company that buys advertising space and time for companies in print and broadcast. The Mumbai police had alleged that Hansa Vision was involved in “illegal financial transactions”, Economic Times reported, with ARG Outlier Media Pvt Ltd, the company that owns Republic.

According to Hansa Vision’s statement, a spokesperson of the Mumbai police’s crime branch initially claimed that Rs 32 lakh was paid by “Hansa Research” to ARG Outlier Media Pvt Ltd. The spokesperson later said that Hansa Research had been named in error, and that the money trail was between Hansa Vision and Republic.

“Hansa Vision emphatically rejects the allegation of any illegal transaction between Republic TV and itself,” the statement said.

It should be noted that Hansa Research is a research group contracted by the Broadcast Audience Research Council. It had alerted the police to the TRP manipulation scam.

Shekhar Swamy, the group chief executive officer of Hansa, stated in the press release: “We have clarified that Hansa Vision India Pvt Ltd, as a buyer of television advertising time, has done business with 55 channels including Republic TV in the past. However, no business has been done by Hansa Vision with Republic TV in 2019 or 2020.”

When asked about the FIR and second notice sent by the police to Republic, Gurbir Singh, a senior journalist and the president of the Mumbai Press Club, said it “does look like the Mumbai police commissioner is going after Republic TV without following due process”.

“The harassment meted out to the ordinary journalists of the channel is not tenable,” he said. “At the same time, Arnab Goswami and are equally guilty of pursuing an agenda of demonising actor Rhea Chakraborty and many others, and inflaming communal passions too. It has nothing to do with journalism. In fact, the channel has brought ignominy to our profession. If there are specific instances of defamation and creation of disaffection, the Mumbai police should pursue its options strictly as per the law."

Senior journalist Paranjoy Guha Thakurta said the Mumbai police has “overreached itself”. Like Gurbir Singh, he emphasised that he “does not endorse the kind of journalism that has been practised by Republic TV and Arnab Goswami”.

"I have known Arnab Goswami for several years but in his current avatar, he has become a monstrous caricature of what he used to be as a TV journalist,” Thakurta said. “He together with some other journalists are largely responsible for tarnishing the reputation of large numbers of honest, hardworking, sincere, ethical journalists including TV journalists who believe journalism is much more than the kind of journalism practiced by Republic, which is responsible for the creation of a toxic atmosphere in this country."

Meeran Borwankar, former director general of the bureau of police research, said, “I find not one but both parties being highly critical of each other. This confrontation could have been avoided. I stand for freedom of press and media but expect them to be responsible. The electronic media had become literally hysterical and farcical in its so called expose of Sushant Singh’s suicide. I found not one but most TV channels extremely irresponsible in this case. Now it is shadow boxing between the Centre and the state."

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Also Read : There was a ‘TRP scam’ before Republic TV. What happened to it?
Also Read : How a statement on Republic TV left the Editors Guild divided
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