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ABP rebuffs link between its report and migrant gathering

The channel’s reporter, arrested for allegedly spreading misinformation, has been granted bail.

MUMBAI: ABP News Network has rebuffed any link between a mob gathering at Mumbai’s Bandra West station and a story shown in its Marathi news channel ABP Majha as "entirely misconceived and being circulated with the sole intention of maligning the channel.”

ABP Majha ran a news story on Tuesday morning suggesting that the railways may run special trains for migrant labourers to return to their hometowns. The story was broadcasted hours before prime minister Narendra Modi’s address to the nation extending the lockdown till 3 May.

“There is no denial of the railway ministry’s letter of 13 April 2020 recommending running of trains to return migrant labourers to their hometowns,” says the network’s spokesperson in a statement. However, minutes after PM Modi’s declaration of lockdown extension, the channel had run a story about the cancellation of trains and refunds till the extended lockdown ends, the statement also states.

“Subsequent to PM Modi’s announcement at 10 am of the continuation of the lockdown and announcements thereafter from the ministry of railways with regard to cancellation of trains and refunds till 3 May, we ran multiple stories, shortly after the ministry’s announcement from 12.30 - 1.30 pm, on our channel clearly announcing that no trains will be running,” says the network. This story, it says, negated its morning one.

“There is no conceivable way in which the crowds that gathered at the Bandra West station from around 3.45 pm can be linked to our (ABP Majha) stories,” says the network’s spokesperson.

ABP Majha reporter Rahul Kulkarni has been arrested for spreading misinformation and deceiving people. The network, expressing shock and dismay about his arrest, said it “will be taking necessary and immediate steps in law.”

The network further added: “We would like to say that before journalists are arrested there should be due verification of all facts and circumstances.”

The senior journalist, meanwhile, has been granted bail by the court.

As media has been put under the essential services category during this unprecedented crisis, the spokesperson in its statement says: “We can say with full confidence that we have not deviated from practices of responsible journalism, and make every possible good faith endeavour to ensure the accuracy of our information and news from credible sources before broadcasting the same.”

Supporting ABP News Network and its channel’s report, News Broadcast Association president Rajat Sharma, requested Maharashtra chief minister Uddhav Thackeray to drop the charges and release the senior journalist Rahul Kulkarni. The president also urged the state government to instead file a complaint before the News Broadcasting Standards Authority (NBSA).

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