The last two weeks have seen major developments surrounding the face of Republic TV, Arnab Goswami. Following on the heels of a TRP fraud case, Salman Khan Films, Aamir Khan Productions, Shahrukh Khan's Red Chillies and other big production houses have filed a defamation suit against the channel.
A total of 34 producers have filed the suit via DSK Legal citing "media trials of Bollywood personalities" and irresponsible and defamatory remarks made by Republic TV editor-in-chief Arnab Goswami, senior journalist Pradeep Bhandari as well as Times Now's senior journalists Rahul Shivshankar and Navika Kumar.
"The livelihood of persons associated with Bollywood is being severely impacted by the smear campaign being run by the Defendants. This is in addition to the ongoing pandemic which has resulted in extreme revenues and work opportunity loss. The privacy of the members of Bollywood is being invaded, and their reputations are being irreparably damaged by painting the entire Bollywood as criminals, seeped in drug culture, and making being part of Bollywood as synonymous with criminal acts in the public imagination," the suit claims.
Ever since the death of actor Sushant Singh Rajput, Republic TV has been vocal in pursuing big Bollywood names for allegedly sponsoring drug rings, which the channel claims played a role in the actor's death. Actress Rhea Chakraborty, her brother Showik and several employees of Sushant have been arrested in the case, whose media coverage has attracted criticism for being vitriolic and openly flouting norms of discourse.
Five days ago, Aaj Tak was fined 1 lakh by the self-governing News Broadcasting Standards Authority for broadcasting fake tweets related to the Sushant Singh Rajput case. Two other channels - Zee News and News 24 - were asked to apologise for the usage of tag lines related to the actors' suicide that was sensational and violated the privacy of all involved.
"While it is the duty of the news channel to report news, which may be in public interest…it is equally important to present the news in a manner which does not violate the privacy of the dead nor sensationalise a tragic incident," the NBSA said.
Salman Khan took an indirect dig at Republic TV on his weekend appearance in Bigg Boss, saying that channels who rant and rave about others will be shut down by the authorities if they cross a line.
Actress Kangana Ranaut, a vocal critic of Bollywood tweeted: "Bullywood the gutter of drugs, exploitation, nepotism and jihad its lid is off instead of cleaning this gutter #BollywoodStrikesBack well file a case on me also, till the time I am alive I will continue to expose you all."
The new defamation suit against Republic and India Today comes on the heels of accusations of TRP fraud by the Mumbai Police Commissioner and an FIR which names India Today as part of the TRP fraud racket. Four persons have been arrested so far.