New Delhi: Human rights lawyer Sudha Bharadwaj has written a rejoinder to Republic TV, questioning claims made by the channel in response to a legal notice that she had sent.
In July this year, Bharadwaj had accused anchor and managing director of Republic TV Arnab Goswami of levelling “ridiculous, scurrilous, false and completely unsubstantiated allegations” against her in a programme, “Super Exclusive Breaking News”, telecast on his channel on July 4. She also sent a legal notice to Goswami and the channel on July 16.
In her notice, Bharadwaj had demanded a copy of a letter that Goswami cited on his show, claiming it was written by Bharadwaj to one “Comrade Prakash”. “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,” Bharadwaj has said in her statement, published on The Leaflet.
Bharadwaj also claimed that the channel had not done any sort of check to see whether the letter was actually authored by her. “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.”
Republic TV has claimed that the reporter in question tried to get Bharadwaj’s response, which she refused to give. However, the lawyer has said that she hung up the phone as soon as the reporter said he was from republic TV, as she thought he was inviting her to be part of a discussion panel. “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 levelled 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.”
The channel has offered her a 25-minute slot to answer questions. To this, Bharadwaj has said that she has already made her views clear in her statement and her interviews to other portals, including The Wire. “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,” Bharadwaj has said. “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.”