Hours after news channel NDTV has been sued for Rs 10,000 crore by Anil Ambani’s Reliance Group, the Enforcement Directorate (ED) served a show-cause notice to the news broadcaster for allegedly flouting foreign exchange regulations in availing of overseas and foreign direct investment facilities of over Rs 4,300 crore.
In a statement, the financial probe agency said, “The investigation showed FEMA (Foreign Exchange Management Act) contraventions relating to receipt of foreign direct investment by NDTV to the extent of Rs 1,637 crore and the other relating to overseas investments to the tune of RS 2,732 crore.”
The show-cause notice, issued under the FEMA, was issued to the founders and executive co-chairpersons of the group — Prannoy Roy and Radhika Roy, journalist Vikram Chandra and a few others.
Earlier, Anil Ambani’s Reliance Group filed a lawsuit in an Ahmedabad court over the channel’s coverage of the Rafale fighter jet deal.
The defamation lawsuit was filed after an episode of NDTV’s weekly show Truth vs Hypethat aired on September 29.
NDTV has maintained that the top executives of Reliance ignored “repeated, multiple and written requests to appear on the show or comment on what is being widely discussed not just in India but in France as well – whether Anil Ambani’s Reliance was transparently chosen as the partner for Dassault in a deal that saw India buying 36 fighter jets”.
An earlier report by NDTV stoked a controversy with the Opposition led by Congress President Rahul Gandhi accusing the Modi-led NDA government of corruption and crony capitalism.
Congress has attacked the ruling Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) over the procurement of jets from French aerospace major Dassault Aviation under a Rs 58,000 crore deal.
NDTV has been sued by Anil Ambani’s Reliance for 10,000 crores in an AHMEDABAD court. For our coverage of Rafale. We will fight this brazen attempt at harassment and intimidation.
— Suparna Singh (@Suparna_Singh) October 18, 2018
The channel clarified its role by stating that the show aired days after Francois Hollande — who was the President of France when the deal was struck — questioned the role of Reliance Defence.
They claimed that the show reported all sides of the story including Dassault’s denial that it had been under any pressure to select Reliance Defence.
“The panellists, in a balanced discussion, examined whether issues like Reliance’s vast debt and record in defence manufacturing made it a suitable choice for Dassault in India,” the statement reads.
The channel further added that the lawsuit was “an unsophisticated warning to the media to stop doing its job,” and that the channel would continue to indulge in journalism that “uncovers the truth.”
“NDTV maintains that it is being targeted for its fair and independent journalism and that its persecution is intended to signal to other media that unless they fall in line, they will face similar consequences. Raids on media owners are further evidence of this,” said the channel.
On October 11, Income Tax officials ‘surveyed’ The Quint Type office including The Quint and The News Minute.
Upon entering the office, the officials had asked the people to stop working and give up their phones. However, after briefly exchanging words about the nature of journalistic work, the officials agreed for them to continue, sources told FPK.
The Asia desk of Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) had expressed their ‘concerns’ about media reports which suggested ‘tax officials have cloned data from The Quint co-founder and its CEO’s gadgets containing sensitive journalistic material during a tax raid’, calling it a ‘direct attack on journalistic freedom’ on Twitter.
CPJ is concerned about news report that suggest tax officials have cloned data from @TheQuint co-founder @kapur_ritu‘s gadgets containing sensitive journalistic material during a tax raid. This is a direct attack on journalistic freedom. https://t.co/5GvhsVNUzY #pressfreedom
— CPJ Asia (@CPJAsia) October 11, 2018
This is in connection with The Associate Editor of The Quint, Poonam Agarwal who, on Twitter, said that the IT officers were ‘trying to clone data’ of the Founder and CEO of the Media organisation, Ritu Kapur.
IT officers are trying to clone data from @kapur_ritu‘s gadgets. When she screamed and asked me about the law of privacy and whether they can clone her journalistic and personal material, while I was standing outside her residence, two IT officers pulled her inside the house.
— Poonam Agarwal (@poonamjourno) October 11, 2018
Earlier, The Editors Guild of India expressed their concerns over the ‘search and survey’ by Income Tax officials in The Quint offices and The News Minute, and the residence of TQ founder Raghav Bahl on Thursday.