Sudha Bharadwaj Slaps Legal Notice On Republic TV After Channel Runs Prime Time Show Based On A Letter ‘Allegedly’ Written By Her
I see no reason to give them an opportunity to act as vigilante Public Prosecutors.
I have received through my counsel a reply from Phoenix Legal on behalf of Republic TV dated 7th August to my Legal Notice dated 16th July 2018. Both my Notice and the Reply thereto have been annexed here.
1. First of all this reply claims that in my notice I “have reflected wanton prejudice against Mr Goswami with the intention to tarnish Mr Goswami’s reputation and selectively target him!!” If that isn’t a case of the pot calling the kettle black I don’t know what is!
2. This reply has not been accompanied by a copy of the “super exclusive” letter purportedly authored by me, which I had demanded a copy of. As you know I have categorically denied having anything whatsoever to do with such a letter.
3. The Republic TV has refused to reveal the source of this letter, which is claimed to be the result of “investigative journalism” by Mr Shawan Sen, claiming journalistic privileges. Normally such privileges are claimed in order to protect vulnerable sources. Definitely police does not qualify as a vulnerable source.
4. The Republic TV has admitted that the reason the said letter was considered “undisputedly” to have been authored by me was 1) the fact that the signature line contained the name ‘Sudha’ ; 2) the letter made a mention of Jagdalpur Legal Aid Group, Bastar Solidarity Network and the names of some advocates with whom I am associated! Any person who had a grudge against me, whether belonging to a corporate house, or the Chhattisgarh police or Chhattisgarh government, would easily know both these public details, available by googling, and on that account could have easily fabricated/ concocted a letter “undisputedly” authored by me and forged a signature with my name. And this is what I believe has been done.
5. It is claimed by Republic TV that, “On 4th July 2018, before the broadcasts were aired, Mr Shawan Sen had contacted your client (i.e me) through telephone to seek her views in relation to the First Letter (letter purportedly authored by me). However, despite being afforded adequate opportunity to air her version, your client expressly refused on the telephone call to provide any comments or views in relation to the news report proposed to be aired by Republic TV, which is again reflective of a prejudice against our client (Republic TV).”
I will reiterate what I have said earlier in my interviews and which can easily be confirmed from call details. On 4th July I received a call from a Mumbai landline on my mobile. . The person on the other end said he was speaking from Republic TV and had just begun to speak further when I replied, “Sorry I don’t speak to Republic TV” and put down the phone. I was under the impression that I was going to be asked to be a panelist on Republic TV and having seen the manner in which “debates” are conducted on that channel, chose not to associate with such a debate. If indeed I was made aware of what was being proposed to be aired through that call and chose to refuse to respond, the call ought to have been relayed in the programme.
The call was not repeated. Republic TV had my mobile number, an sms could have been sent to me informing me that a serious allegation was being leveled against me. That was not done. The programme could have been postponed till my reaction was obtained. That was also not done. I stand by my position that I was not given any opportunity to respond to the allegations made against me before the programme was aired.
6. Republic TV has said that in the Prime Time broadcast at 9pm on 4th July 2018 my image was shown 13 times (thanks for counting!) with the caption “ALLEGEDLY WROTE LETTER”. They have chosen to deliberately gloss over the other two earlier broadcasts. In these impugned broadcasts the transcript of what was spoken does not contain the word “allegedly” even once. The programmes infact keep referring to the letter as “undisputable”. The tone and tenor of the programmes as well as all statements made by the presenters when viewed as a whole communicate and portray that the baseless claims made are proven facts.
7. After literally shouting from the rooftops about my connections with Maoists and Kashmiri separatists, Phoenix Legal claims, “Our clients unequivocally state that the Broadcasts had not lowered the image of your client in the estimation of others in any manner whatsoever…..The tone and tenor of the Broadcasts had not imputed any guilt or culpability upon your client. The Anchors in the Broadcasts had refrained from pronouncing any verdict of guilt or innocence against your client.” So kind of you, dear Sirs, even I am a good enough criminal lawyer to know that you have no business pronouncing any verdict against me. The fact is that you have incited hatred against me, and put me into a situation where my life could be under threat from people who don’t know that you have no business pronouncing a verdict against me, more so when the same is premised on false and fabricated material. Recent events have confirmed that the apprehension of harm resulting from the hatred incited by this kind of journalism is no longer a mere apprehension, and persons are actually being subjected to violent attacks.
8. Finally the Republic TV has given the following offer, “Your client will be afforded uninterrupted, unedited and uncensored 25 minutes slot for a program in which she can answer any questions put in the manner she deems fit, express her views and clarify her position. Our clients are also willing to accommodate such a slot at primetime (ie 9pm) on a mutually” convenient date.
To this, my clear response is that – the reply shows that Republic TV is already aware of my interviews given to “The Wire” and “Newsclick”, they have carefully studied the Public Statement issued by me. They have also been given a Legal Notice. If they indeed wish to be fair they are always free to read out this Public Statement/ Legal Notice and air my interviews given at The Wire and Newsclick. (And why only 25 minutes? When admittedly the 9 pm Prime Time slot is 120 minutes and you had aired 3 broadcasts in all.)
Republic TV has already conducted itself as vigilante Investigators. I see no reason to give them an opportunity to act as vigilante Public Prosecutors and interrogate me publicly about a document that I have nothing to do with.
As a lawyer I believe in the Rule of Law and not in media trials. So I prefer to continue going about my work and duties as a trade unionist, a lawyer and a teacher; serving people as best I can and as I have been doing for the past three decades. Let my love for my country and its citizens speak, not through words, but through my work.
Legal Notice Sent By Sudha Bharadwaj
Reply Sent By Republic TV