Charged With Sedition, Telugu News Channels, ABN, TV5, Move SC Against Andhra Police

The Andhra Pradesh police have accused the channels concerned of airing "offending" speeches by YSRC MP Raghurama Krishnam Raju and claim that such broadcast could cause tensions in the state.

New Delhi: Telugu news channels TV5 and ABN Andhra Jyothi on Sunday moved the Supreme Court against an FIR (first information report) lodged against them by Andhra Pradesh Police on charges of sedition after it had allegedly broadcast “offending speeches” made by YSR Congress MP, Kanumuri Raghurama Krishnam Raju, Bar and Bench reported.

According to the plea filed by TV5, the “offending” speeches of Raju were broadcast by other media outlets as well, the report said.

“The FIR against TV5 is premised on the fact that there were premediated and organised slots given to Mr. Raju, which is not substantiated in the FIR and even otherwise cannot be termed as a criminal act as public figures are often hosted at designated time slots in news channels,” the news channel submitted.

The channel in its petition sought a stay on consequential investigation and an order restraining the police from taking any coercive action against the petitioner company, its news channels, or their employees, the report added.

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The petition added that the FIR not only violates freedom of speech and expression by “seeking to criminalise the act of airing the views of a sitting member of parliament, who is a public figure, in a news channel but also creates a chilling effect for media houses in the state”.

For its part, the ABN Andhra Jyothi claimed that ever since Y.S. Jaganmohan Reddy-led government came to power, the news channel has been the target of the state government, resulting in limited broadcasting of the channel in the state of Andhra Pradesh. It further said even after it had secured an order from the Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT), the channel still continues to be aired in a limited manner in the state.

Raju was arrested on Friday by Andhra Pradesh’s crime investigation department (CID) on the charges of sedition and reportedly suffered custodial torture at the hands of the police.

On April 27, Raju had asked a CBI court to cancel the bail granted to the head of the party and chief minister Y.S. Jaganmohan Reddy in a disproportionate assets case in 2012. He alleged that the chief minister had violated the bail provisions.

The FIR against Raju was registered on the basis of statements made by him on various digital platforms. The Andhra Police charged him under Sections 124A (sedition), 153A (promoting enmity between different groups), and 505 (conducing public mischief) of the Indian Penal Code.

“…it was found that through his speeches on regular basis Mr. Raju was indulging in systematic, schematic effort to cause tensions…and by attacking various government dignitaries in a way which will cause loss of faith in the government which they represent,” NDTV reported, quoting the police statement.

Following his arrest, Raju has also moved the Supreme Court against a high court order denying him bail.