Television

Zee News issues Rs 1.5 bn defamation notice to Naveen Jindal

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NEW DELHI: Zee News has sent a Rs 1.5 billion defamation notice to industrialist Naveen Jindal, saying that he wrongly accused the news channel of blackmailing and extortion and attempted to deflect attention from his alleged role in the coal allocation scandal.

In a statement on Saturday, it said: "Zee News has condemned and completely rejected the doctored evidence produced by Jindal. Zee News sees this as a deliberate attempt to malign the trustworthy (news) television network."

The news network further stated: "Zee News has granted a three-day time period to Naveen Jindal to withdraw all his unsubstantiated and defamatory allegations, failing which he would face civil and criminal actions initiated by Zee News."

It may be recalled that Jindal Steel and Power Limited (JSPL) has also filed a police case against Zee News.

The Broadcast Editors' Association (BEA) on Thursday suspended its treasurer and editor of Zee News Sudhir Chaudhary, who features in the Jindal video tapes, following a complaint by Jindal, who is also a Congress member of parliament.

At a press conference on Thursday, Jindal showed a video recording of meetings with Zee TV executives and claimed this to be proof that they were trying to extort money from him. Jindal said the TV channel told his company's executives that if they did not spend Rs one billion on advertising on the channel, it would run stories about how Jindal's firm was allocated coal fields.

Jindal said the "extortion attempt" was caught on a hidden camera and he released CDs of this footage to reporters. The 'reverse sting' was carried out between 13 and 19 September over four meetings in different locations in Delhi.

But Zee News said that "it has always been the forerunner in exposing Naveen Jindal's double standard as a politician and an industrialist in Coalgate scam. Zee News clearly understands that it is to suppress the coverage that Zee News was telecasting on Coalgate, that the corporate communications team from Jindal Steel and Power Limited first tried to bribe Samir Ahluwalia with Rs 250 million, which he declined straightway, and later was offered a Rs one billion advertising deal to stop the coverage of Coalgate scam."

It has also alleged that attempts by "right thinking media houses including Zee News to bring out the truth in the Rs1,860 billion Coalgate scam are being muzzled by Mr. Naveen Jindal by distorting the truth and defaming those on the righteous path." It also cited the Comptroller and Auditor General report that has named JSPL as one of the beneficiaries of the allocation that was done bypassing auctions.

"Zee News has always been in pursuit of seeking the truth in the Coalgate scam, and has had several interactions with Jindal and his officials. We accuse Jindal and JSPL of maligning the name of Zee News since they chose to display an edited/doctored CD where only selected portions were shown. Jindal has a history of unfairly targeting those who dare to confront him with the truth," the statement said.

The statement added: "We are of the view that similar false allegations have been made by Naveen Jindal and his officials against Zee News in a police complaint and we see it as subversion of the due process of law. Clearly, we see this as an attempt to prejudice and defame us and to overreach the investigation in this regard and have hence sent a defamation notice to JSPL and Naveen Jindal."

The statement goes on to assert that Zee News is undeterred by such diversionary tactics adopted by Jindal and JSPL and would stay focused on unraveling the ultimate truth in the Coalgate scam and have only taken this route to counter the allegations made.

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