New Delhi: Media group Zee News Ltd came out strongly in defence of its arrested editors Sudhir Chaudhry and Sameer Ahluwalia, calling the arrest 'illegal'. Zee News CEO Alok Agarwal alleged that Congress MP and industrialist Naveen Jindal tried to bribe the channel's executives. "The fact is that Naveen Jindal tried to bribe first the executives and then the Zee Channel not to publish the story," Agarwal said.
Agarwal also said that Jindal tried to put pressure on the channel to not publish stories on coal block allocation. "Our channel had raised fundamental questions about coal blocks allocated to the Jindal Group. All kind of pressure was put on the company and its executives not to publish coal block allocation stories," he said.
Agarwal demanded immediate release of the channel editors claiming that the Delhi Police were being forced to pursue the matter against Zee Group. He also claimed that the Jindal family tried to put emotional pressure on the channel. "One of the shareholders of the Zee Group was called by the mother of Naveen Jindal. Irrespective of the facts of the coalgate case, she put emotional pressure onthe shareholder citing relationship of four generations and requested to stop broadcasting any matter against Naveen Jindal and his companies," Agarwal claimed.
"We tried to contact the executives of Naveen Jindal's company to take their version on the story. Instead of answering our team's queries, Naveen Jindal decided to file an FIR. This was an act of political pressure," Agarwal added.
Earlier in a statement, the Zee Group said, "The channel strongly condemns the arbitrary and illegal action of Delhi police in arresting its two editors and for initiating a malicious, illegal and motivated prosecution. The arrests have been made to sensationalize the issue and lend a cover to the coalgate scam and in particular to favour Naveen Jindal and his company. This is a crude and direct attack on the freedom of the Press. The channel vehemently denies all allegations levelled against it."
The crime branch of Delhi Police on Tuesday arrested Zee News editors Sudhir Chaudhry and Sameer Ahluwalia in connection with the Jindal Group extortion case. According to sources, the Zee News editors were arrested after the CFSL reports of the sting CD submitted by the Jindals came in.
Sources further said that the forensic report said that the CD was genuine. The Zee editors are likely to be produced is Saket court after 2 pm on Wednesday.
Congress MP Naveen Jindal had filed a criminal case against Zee TV for a sting operation about his company's alleged involvement in the scam-tainted coal block allocations. Jindal alleged that he was asked for cash to stop the negative story on him.
In a press conference, Jindal had also released tapes showing the conversation between Zee Business Editor Sameer Ahluwalia and his team members. "Media in our country has to be above suspicion. Media has played a crucial role in our country. Jindal Steel and Power Ltd has faced an incident on which I want to give a pure version. The way Zee TV has carried the news, it has become important for me to share," Jindal had said.
The Zee Network refuted the claims saying, "We had been running stories against Naveen Jindal, so he has hit back at us. Jindal's men approached us and offered us a bribe to stop running stories against him. (Our) editors met Jindal's representatives with a dummy contract."