Arnab Goswami-led Republic TV is harassing my family, complained the Kudankulam anti-nuclear activist SP Udayakumar, in letters to Press Council of India and the News Broadcasters Association, after the channel allegedly conducted a sting operation on him.
In his complaint, the activists said, "As a result of Arnab Goswami’s slanderous campaign against me, my family and I fear for our safety and security."
Udayakumar is known for leading the protest against Tamil Nadu's Kudankulam Nuclear Plant with his group People's Movement Against Nuclear Energy (PMANE). On Monday n Republic TV aired a series of stories on various activists who were part of the protest against the Kudankulam plant.
His complaint comes after Republic TV carried out a ‘sting operation’ against him, which the channel claims exposed his "willingness to accept money from abroad". The complaint accuses the reporters of approaching him s as scholars.Asking PCI to stop Republic TV from causing more “mental agony to me and my entire family”, the anti-nuclear activist said such behaviour should be unacceptable in a democracy.
The sting operation was carried out by Shweta Kothari, in which she introduced herself to Udayakumar as a 'research student'. Shweta was accompanied by another journalist at Republic.
Shweta asked Udayakumar whether he would be willing to accept money from a "foreign-based professor" in support of his movement. According to Republic, the activist agreed to accept the money when asked by the reporter.
Udayakumar said that the money should be routed through Indian contacts into his political party’s account, promising that it would be used for anti-nuclear protest. He added that there would be no problem if it was sent via cash, but if it had to be sent through a bank transaction, it could not be sent from abroad. He also mentioned how he had received money via a foreign transaction earlier.
In a letter to PCI chairperson, Udayakumar said, "I told her that we did not accept money from foreigners and our movement had no bank account also. She then asked me if there was any other way of donating money to us. I told her that my personal account was frozen and that even our party account could not receive foreign funds. So I said she could not donate money from abroad but her parents could do it here in India if she sent the money to them. I also mentioned clearly that I would give proper receipt and the money will be accounted for. I also informed her that we were not interested in getting foreign funds."
Republic TV accused Udayakumar of calling Arnab an agent of Indian nationalism, saffron brigade. The activist goes on to say that Republic TV accused him of receiving funds from the “Church with foreign donations”, adding that he was ill-treated when he participated in the news channel's panel discussion, with Goswami being "abhorrent, abrasive and even abusive".
He further went on to say that his family, including his parents, wife and son, were harassed and hounded by a Republic reporter.
"Sanjeev showed up at my home again in the morning of June 21, 2017 and started harassing my family all over again. When my aged father objected to his ruthless behaviour, he fraudulently reported on his TV that I personally had scolded him. I came to know about the whole incident when I came home in the evening," alleged the letter.
"As a result of Arnab Goswami’s slanderous campaign against me, my family and I fear for our safety and security. I hold Arnab Goswami, Shweta Kothari, Sanjeev and Hariharan (another Goswami-type anchor of Republic TV) solely responsible for any untoward incident that may happen to me," he said.
This isn't the first time someone has complained against Arnab Goswami and his channel.
Last month the Delhi High Court issued a notice to Arnab and the channel on a defamation suit filed by Congress MP Shashi Tharoor claiming Rs 2 crore damages from them for allegedly making defamatory remarks against him with regard to the death of his wife Sunanda Pushkar.
Goswami's Republic TV had aired what it called an expose in the death of Pushkar, playing tapes of a conversation between a reporter and Tharoor's assistant Narayan on the night of Pushkar's death. Tharoor, in his suit, said he has suffered humiliation and severe loss of reputation in the eyes of the public.
In May Republic TV was issued a notice by the court in a case pertaining to the alleged breach of employment contract and misusing intellectual property of Times Now, the channel owned by Bennett Coleman and Company Ltd (BCCL). The Group had filed a criminal complaint against Arnab Goswami. Soft copies of the complaint and an executive summary thereof were reviewed by Business Standard.
Republic TV, launched on May 6, garnered high viewership numbers for its initial week. But these numbers drew strong objections from the National Association of Broadcasters (NBA), which cited various discrepancies in the data.
The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India's (TRAI) move to step in to prevent the improper use of LCNs has led to a decline in Republic TV’s reach to 1 million from 2 million in its first week, according to The Economics Times.
NBA had since been in discussions with BARC, an agency that measures the reach of channels, and TRAI to resolve these issues. Sources say, "With Trai’s intervention to remove multiple LCNs by broadcasters, the numbers for reach look stable, but the time spent for Republic TV still looks like an anomaly and must be read with caution."
The term multiple LCNs refers to a practice in which channels could register in multiple frequencies, i.e., a news channel could also appear in the entertainment or movie categories.