Three Anil Ambani-owned companies have served a “cease and desist” notice on The Hindu and several other media houses, including websites against publishing “unverified and speculative” reports relating to the offset contract that was part of the Rafale deal or stories regarding the alleged Rafale fighter jet scam.
The three companies are Reliance Infrastructure Ltd., Reliance Defence Ltd. and Reliance Aerostructure Ltd.
In a press statement issued on Wednesday, the Editor’s Guild of India, while acknowledging that the legal notice was issued to several newspapers and publications in India, decried the “cease and desist” notice served by a large corporate group (Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group) on some newspapers in an effort to block the coverage of an important defence deal.
“The company should withdraw this notice. And if it doesn’t, it should be resisted in court. If needed, we hope the courts will weigh in for the right of journalists to investigate and raise questions,” the Editor’s Guild of India said.
The notice dated August 2, 2018 served on The Hindu’s Editor, Mukund Padmanabhan, and its publisher, N. Ravi, stated that the attention of the three companies had been drawn to news reports in the media that were “speculative, factually incorrect, and exhibiting lack of understanding in a section of the media”.
Served on behalf on their clients by Mulla & Mulla & Cragie Blunt & Caroe Advocates & Solicitors, the notice strongly urged the media “to avoid, cease and desist from carrying out any unverified and speculative reporting on such a sensitive subject relating to national security”.
It alleged that there was a “vilification campaign” being carried out against the companies “at the instance of corporate rivals and some political parties” to besmirch their reputation and prejudice the commercial interests of their shareholders.
The notice comes after the Congress alleged there were financial irregularities in the €7.87 billion Intergovernmental Agreement (IGA) between India and France. The party had also raised questions about the manner in which the companies were roped in as offset (export obligation) partners for the deal.
According to the website Newsclick, another one of the cease and desist recipents, the letter went on to say that a “vilification campaign” at the instance of corporate rivals and some political parties is being undertaken to “deliberately besmirch” their clients which will adversely affect their shareholders.
The letter also issued an advisory to Newsclick stating that “the fundamental objective of journalism is to serve the people and to provide them with information, views, and comments on matters of public interest in a fair, accurate, unbiased manner.”
They also stated that they “expect the media to provide ample notice of 48 hours for them to respond and place the facts as they truly stand.”
Before stating that they reserve their right to legal recourse, they also stated that the subject matter of the reporting is “a sensitive subject relating to national security,” Newsclick said in a report.