New Delhi, October 28, 2021 — The Indian media conglomerate TV Today Network must respect the journalistic right to freedom of expression and should immediately drop its lawsuit against the news website and media watchdog Newslaundry, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.
On October 19, TV Today Network filed a civil defamation and copyright infringement suit in the Delhi High Court against Newslaundry, seeking 20 million rupees (US$267,000) in damages, according to news reports and a copy of the lawsuit, which CPJ reviewed.
TV Today Network, also known as The India Today Group, owns the TV news channels India Today, Aaj Tak, and Good News Today; 13 magazines; and three radio stations, according to those sources and the India Today website.
The suit alleges that 34 articles published on Newslaundry’s website and 65 videos on its YouTube channel, which criticized TV Today Network’s news coverage and anchors, constituted defamation and copyright infringement, according to those sources, which said that TV Today Network also seeks a court order to have these articles and videos removed.
“TV Today Network’s defamation and copyright infringement suit against Newslaundry is a stark misuse of civil law and a dangerous attack on free expression,” said Steven Butler, CPJ’s Asia program coordinator, in Washington, D.C. “As a leading news organization in India that has been a victim of past defamation suits, TV Today Network should know better and immediately drop this legal action.”
The lawsuit names Newslaundry as a corporate entity and also names five journalists and editors involved in writing the articles and producing the videos, as well as the company’s chief executive officer and two directors, as defendants, according to Indian Express and the copy of the lawsuit.
The lawsuit claims Newslaundry attempted to create an impression that TV Today Network’s news channels were involved in broadcasting false news and spreading sectarian discord, allegations that the suit says are “untrue and unfair.” It also alleges that Newslaundry’s use of clips from TV Today Network’s programming constituted copyright infringement.
The suit requests that Newslaundry and its journalists be barred from “writing, tweeting or publishing” anything defamatory about TV Today Network’s channels, anchors, or management.
Newslaundry CEO Abhinandan Sekhri told CPJ in a phone interview that the outlet stood by its reporting, adding, “It’s unfortunate that news organizations that should be at the forefront of standing up for freedom of press are filing such suits.”
Hrishikesh Baruah and Pranav Jain, lawyers representing TV Today Network, did not respond to CPJ’s emailed requests for comment.
Previously, in January, The Times Group, another Indian media conglomerate, filed a civil defamation complaint in the Bombay High Court seeking 1 billion rupees (US$13.4 million) from Newslaundry, as CPJ documented at the time.