Following a series of exchanges, The Wire has served the Bennett Coleman & Company and the Times Network a 'Cease and Desist' notice.
Earlier, a war of words broke out between the website's Founding Editor Siddharth Varadarajan and Times Now’s Arnab Goswami slugging it out over a doctored video which was aired on some television channels.
On Times Now, it was played by BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra on his tablet live on the show. A forensic report has since established that, the video, which shows JNU student leader Kanhaiya Kumar shouting ‘anti-India’ slogans, is fake.
Timeline of events
The videos first surfaced on social media and was later picked up by a few news channels, mainly Zee news, through which they claimed that Kanhaiya Kumar could be seen shouting anti-national slogans.
The Wire's Siddharth Vardarajan also took up the issue, demanding an apology from the media outlets and saying:
From fabricating a case to resorting to violence and peddling forged ‘evidence’, all those who have worked to ruin a young life must be brought to account.
In a piece for The Wire, he outlined how the police commissioner of Delhi and select TV channels like Zee, NewsX, India News and Times Now, put a fabricated video on air, without verifying if the video was authentic.
Times Now, however, came down hard on Varadarajan, asking him to take down all references to Times Now in the piece. Times Now ran a statement on-air accusing The Wire of running a 'factually inaccurate' story on its channel.
The statement was also tweeted multiple times by the news channel.
Times Now also put out a 46-second clip, titled "The Newshour clip where BJP Spokesperson is told video put on Hindi channel had to be examined and could not be taken at face value."
But later, after watching the entire NewsHour telecast on 17th February, 2016, Thewire.in published a new story titled: “Times Now First Denies Airing Doctored Video, Then Concedes it Did.”
Vardarajan alleged that the aim of the 46-second clip was to "absolve himself (Arnab) of any legal or moral responsibility for having aired the forged clip."
He goes on to add that "The reality is that Arnab asked Sambit to play that clip, it was allowed to be played for a few seconds with clear audio, and Arnab also proclaims based on that audio that Kanhaiya shouted slogans for ‘Azaadi’, ostensibly for Kashmir, and then goes on to ask questions based on the doctored video. When one of the panellists, Swara Bhaskar, tells him the video is wrong, he says that the video is unverified, but the debate continues.”
Times Now, however, stuck to its stand that it never aired the video directly and warned its viewers about the authenticity of the video.
Here is the text of the letter from Ashwath Sitaraman on behalf of The Wire and Siddharth Varadarajan:
I write to you on behalf of The Wire and Siddharth Varadarajan. I serve upon you, in your capacity as Legal Representative Bennett, Coleman & Company Limited, TIMES NETWORK, the attached notice, for Bennett Coleman and Company Ltd, Times Now, Arnab Goswami and their agents, to Cease and Desist from making allegations of wrongful reporting by The Wire.
The letter then goes on to add:
It is an irrefutable fact that Times Now aired the said clip.....(the) record now makes it evident that far from preventing Mr Sambit Patra from showing the video, Mr Arnab Goswami repeatedly urged him to show it on air and asked for his camera to zoom in and "show the video close by". Having enabled the airing of the video by word and gesture, Mr Goswami went on to emphasize its suspect contents....Therefore, Mr Goswami knew, even when he called Siddharth Varadarajan, that his claim of having stopped Mr Patra was contrary to fact.
The letter ends with the demand for a public apology to the website, its founding editor, the viewers and the nation, as it "is the very least that journalist ethics would require."
The full text of the letter can be found here.