Barely a month after a court ordered a Rs 100-crore fine on Bennett, Coleman-owned Times Now for incorrectly showing a photograph of Supreme Court Justice P B Sawant in a case of mistaken identity, the country’s largest media group has slapped a defamation case for a similar amount on a little-known online media start-up called The Weekend Leader. The cause is an article titled “Rising emotions, falling objectivity, the truth behind Mullaiperiyar coverage in Chennai newsrooms” that the website posted on December 5. Purporting to analyse media coverage of the controversy that has caused tension between Tamil Nadu and Kerala, the post suggested that reports published in The Times of India’s Chennai edition were sympathetic to the Kerala cause because the group had a preference for hiring Malayalees. “Every key post in the paper is held by a Malayalee – a Nair or Menon and so on. The Resident Editor, Political Editor and Metro Editor are all Malayalees,” the post read. On December 6, Bennett, Coleman sent a defamation notice claiming damages of Rs 1 crore unless the article was removed and the website tendered an unconditional apology. On December 9, instead of an apology, the website’s editor published the text of the legal notice. A week later, the website reproduced the text of a second notice from Bennett, Coleman, this time upping the damages to Rs 100 crore.
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