In a week marked by conversations about press freedom, communal violence in Jodhpur, Modi’s visit to Europe, and a worrying power crisis across the country, social media was abuzz with something quite different.
Who at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club had agreed to host director Vivek Agnihotri at the club’s premises in Delhi – before the club itself unceremoniously cancelled the event? Did the Press Club agree to then host Agnihotri before backing out too? And who is Agnihotri’s Zee Studios contact who set up the event in the first place?
According to Agnihotri himself, all will be revealed on May 5.
Confused? Allow us to explain.
Agnihotri tweeted a video on May 3, claiming an “unusual, shocking and extremely undemocratic thing” had happened.
“I became victim of a hate campaign,” he said, “and my free speech was banned by the watchdogs of free speech – the media.”
Agnihotri said a few days before, the Global Kashmiri Pandit Diaspora had informed him that the Foreign Correspondents’ Club was “very keen” to host him for a press conference on his latest movie, The Kashmir Files. The event was allegedly fixed for May 5 at 7 pm.
IMPORTANT: ALL MEDIA— Vivek Ranjan Agnihotri (@vivekagnihotri) May 3, 2022
1. Foreign Correspondents Club, New Delhi has cancelled my PC on 5th May in an undemocratic manner as part of a hate-campaign against #TheKashmirFiles.
2. I am holding an open-house PC at the Press Club of India on the 5th at 4 PM.
All media are invited. pic.twitter.com/aDFbS9FteB
An executive from Zee Studios, the film’s distributor, “flew to Delhi and made all the arrangements”, he said. But then, “very powerful media” purportedly “took objection” to the press conference, and it was cancelled.
Saying his “conscience doesn’t allow this attack on free speech”, Agnihotri said he was holding a press conference at the Press Club of India instead “in the interest of India, democracy, free speech and truth”.
Foreign Correspondents’ Club president Manish Gupta told Newslaundry that the club’s South Asia chapter had decided to cancel a “promotional event”. He refused to comment any further.
But there was another twist.
After Agnihotri’s tweet on the event now taking place at Press Club, that venerable institution itself tweeted saying it was “not facilitating any event on May 5 by any individual or organisation”.
The Press Club of India is not facilitating any event on May 5 by any individual or organisation. The Club allows press conferences only with advanced booking. There is a due process, and bookings have to be done through a member of the Club.— Press Club of India (@PCITweets) May 3, 2022
Chander Shekhar Luthra, joint secretary of the club, told Newslaundry: “We didn’t get any calls to book the club’s premises, either in the name of Vivek Agnihotri or The Kashmir Files.”
A member of the Press Club has to facilitate booking the premises for a non-member. Luthra said, “Either Vivek or someone representing him should have filled a form...As far as the Press Club of India is concerned, there was no booking for Mr Agnihotri.”
He added, “Merely just by tweeting, you cannot book any space...You can’t just say, ‘I’ll do an open house in the Press Club of India.’ That will amount to trespassing...Our stand is very clear – there is no booking as such from anyone in the name of Mr Agnihotri for his cause.”
Agnihotri said on Twitter that the Press Club was "lying through their teeth".
Wow! @PCITweets also cancelled me. The watchdogs of democracy and messiah of free speech not only banned me undemocratically but are also lying through their teeth.— Vivek Ranjan Agnihotri (@vivekagnihotri) May 4, 2022
1. Encl are the facts.
2. They have booked earlier through our agency without any memberâs recco. Receipt encl. https://t.co/APRzRlYR18 pic.twitter.com/BQTcY1SXUs
Thwarted again, Agnihotri has now announced that he will hold a press conference on May 5 at Le Meridien hotel.
When Newslaundry reached out to Agnihotri with questions, he said, “You can join me in my PC on 5th May at 3.30 pm at Le Meridien and ask me all your questions.”
When we asked whether Zee Studios had made the booking with Press Club on his behalf, he said, “Will answer all questions with evidences on 5th.”
Update: This report was updated with Agnihotri's tweet on Press Club.
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