Listen to this article:
New Delhi: India Today has sought Rs 2 crore in damages from independent news media company Newslaundry for alleged copyright violation and defamation.
The defamation suit comes nearly a month after Newslaundry claimed that YouTube froze its channel after the India Today Group had reported it multiple times for copyright violation.
Co-founder and chief executive officer of Newslaundry, Abhinandan Sekhri, told The Wire that the copy of the suit was sent to the organisation by the legal representative of the complainant, advocate Hrishikesh Baruah, at 10:41 pm on Monday, October 25.
Nearly an hour after that, journalist Ritika Jain tweeted about the development.
— Ritika Jain (@riotsjain) October 25, 2021
Baruah also issued messages saying, “My Client [i.e. TV Today Network Ltd] has preferred a Civil Suit seeking Permanent and Mandatory Injunction along with damages against News Laundry Media Private Limited and others. The said case is likely to be listed before the Hon’ble Court on 28.10.2021 or any day thereafter as per the convenience of the Hon’ble Court.”
According to Sekhri, the suit raised several objections. “Everything from why we are making fun of their anchors to commenting on their reportage to using the footage for our commentary,” he said, and added that both defamation and copyright infringement allegations were put together in one suit.
Sekhri added that the voluminous complaint ran into several hundred pages. On the nature of complaints raised in the suit, he said, “The meat of it is why we said this about this anchor; why did we show this anchor with a zip on his mouth – to demonstrate that he could not speak when needed. It verges on the bizarre.”
Reacting to the suit, Sekhri said: “It is disturbing that people like these, who are supposed to stand up for press freedom and freedom of speech…this is what they understand both of [these rights].”
He further said, “It is deeply worrying, going by the suit that has been filed, that these are the people who are considered the dominant news player in this country. This demonstrates their understanding and commitment to press freedom and freedom of speech. The less said about their journalism the better.”
In the notice, he said, India Today had cited things from as far back as six years. “They have taken stuff from the past nearly six years.”
Moreover, he said, other than Twitter, Facebook and YouTube, nine people were named in the suit. “It is also unfortunate that they have also named Hridayesh Joshi, who is a freelancer and who does not have the luxury of an organisation backing him. But we will also handle all his defence. He writes for us and he has done several stories for us, and Newslaundry will be taking care of all his legal expenses and requirements. We will be filing our reply in court whenever the matter gets listed.”
Meanwhile, Sekhri also tweeted about the developments.
Thing about many of the Tzars of legacy media is that they think they were top of the pyramid – critiquing, reporting & commenting on Politics, judiciary, business etc but they can’t be subjected to the same scrutiny or critique. Well, they can wake up to the 21st century 1/2
— Abhinandan Sekhri (@AbhinandanSekhr) October 26, 2021
Joshi also put out a tweet saying that he has been named in connection with an article that he wrote three years ago.
3 साल पहले के मेरे इस लेख पर इंडिया टुडे ग्रुप को अब एहसास हुआ है और उन्होंने मुकदमा किया है। जिसने भी बस्तर में आदिवासियों, वहां तैनात जवानों और स्थानीय पत्रकारों की समस्या को देखा है उसके लिये @rahulkanwal ये प्रोग्राम एक भद्दा मज़ाक था।एक ट्रेनी रिपोर्टर भी यह बात कह सकता है। https://t.co/aoKfXNAMRD
— Hridayesh Joshi (@hridayeshjoshi) October 26, 2021
Earlier this month, The Wire had reported that Newslaundry’s YouTube channel was taken down after India Today reported it for ‘copyright violation’.
Denying that it had indulged in any copyright violation, the news outlet had then claimed that it was being targeted through serial complaints to stop it from doing its work. Then too Sekhri had stated that before complaining to YouTube, the India Today Group did not get in touch with Newslaundry.
A journalist at Newslaundry, Meghnad S., had then tweeted that the channel was mass reported by Aaj Tak for copyright violation. He had further said that “this shows you the power of independent media. This shows you how legacy media behemoths are actively trying to create problems for us”.
Following the YouTube issue, Sekhri on Monday said that Newslaundry had “sent a proper legal reply” answering most of the concerns raised. Yet, now, he said, no feelers or legal notice were sent by India Today to Newslaundry in advance, but “straightaway they filed a defamation suit in the court and sent us a copy of it”.