New Delhi: Zee News on Wednesday demanded the immediate release of two of its senior journalists, who were arrested the previous day in an extortion case filed by Congress member of Parliament Naveen Jindal. The police action is “illegal” and “designed for something else,” the broadcaster said.
Zee denied allegations of an attempt to extort Rs.100 crore from Jindal Steel and Power Ltd for not airing news reports linking the company to improprieties in the allocation of coal blocks. Zee News chief executive officer Alok Agrawal accused the United Progressive Alliance government of “intimidating” the media.
Zee News head Sudhir Chaudhary and Zee Business head Samir Ahluwalia were arrested on a complaint filed in October by Jindal’s company.
Questioning the arrests and their timing, Agrawal and Zee lawyer R.K. Handoo said the detentions were deliberately made before a holiday so that regular bail could be denied. Handoo said the arrests had been made under a section which speaks of a non-bailable offence and not a bailable offence.
“What was the need for the arrest. It was designed for something else. It is a nefarious gameplan,” Handoo said.
Agrawal claimed that it was the Congress MP who offered money to Zee editors first and then to the company. Jindal also tried to influence several senior Zee functionaries not only directly but also through various people, including political leaders, Agrawal alleged.
Agrawal said Jindal and Zee officials had a conversation spread over six hours and half a dozen meetings and if anyone was to take out only 5% of these conversations, “it can be distorted in any manner”.
On his part, Jindal on Wednesday refused to comment on the developments. He said, “the matter is sub-judice. Delhi police is investigating the matter. I am not commenting on this.” PTI