New Delhi: Zee News, India’s oldest independent private 24x7 news channel, has been unfairly targeted by Naveen Jindal promoted Jindal Steel Power Limited (JSPL), a company which is among the accused in the infamous Coalgate scam in the country, for simply pursuing truth in the case which is easily alleged to be one of the biggest scams in recent times.
The industrialist turned politician promoted company has recently filed a police complaint against two senior journalists manning India’s two premier channels-Zee News and Zee Business- as a direct fallout of channel’s sustained journalistic endeavor to unravel the truth in the Coalgate scam which has visibly stirred the conscience of the nation for the alleged connivance between industrialists and powers that be. The Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) estimated the losses to the tune of rupees 1.86 lakh crore in the coal allocation made by the government to a clutch of companies including JSPL. JSPL’s share in this is one fifth of the allocation.
While the coal scam has received wide coverage across media in India and abroad, various news platforms including Zee News launched a journalistic investigation to probe the extent of collusion and erosion of national wealth due to alleged unfair grant of coal blocks to private companies including JSPL. Other companies involved in the scam too were covered.
This journalistic pursuit was born out of the channel’s editorial philosophy and well established track record being the first private television news channel in the country to unravel the truth and expose the powerful, especially those wielding political clout to garner natural resources controlled by the government. The tone for the investigation was indeed set by the CAG report itself which detailed the extent of the loss in the alleged scam.
The journalistic initiative led the reporter unit to seek facts as also seek the point of view of the accused in the coal scam. Before telecasting the stories, Zee News asked for JSPL’s version/response through formal/informal communications. There, however, was no response from the company.
This took Zee News reporter to Naveen Jindal, who avoided being questioned on the involvement of his company in the coal-gate scam. While Zee News channel did not get deterred by his approach to thwart, it buttonholed him at a public event at a five star hotel here with the sole objective of seeking his version, as is prescribed by the journalistic norms.
Jindal, however, chose the opportunity to show his naked clout by physically pushing the Zee News reporter to try and silence the truth. He hit at the newsgathering team in public view exposing his intent to muzzle the media. This tragic episode in contemporary journalism was duly covered by national print media. It is pertinent to mention here that as a commitment to quality journalism Naveen Jindal earlier featured innumerable times on our network given his genuine news value. The network also hosted him as an anchor some years ago as part of Independence Day celebration.
Rattled by the series of expose against Naveen Jindal and JSPL, the company tried to use intimidation to get the channel’s campaign stopped. After failing to achieve anything by intimidating journalists at our end, JSPL senior executives attempted to bring in extraneous considerations including trying to bribe individual lead editorial resources manning Zee News and Zee Business in lieu of dropping the campaign against Jindal and JSPL. All this while, the series on coal scam and Naveen Jindal continued as there was no intention on our part to stop this campaign without reaching its logical conclusion.
Given its pedigree and commitment to quality journalism, Zee News team didn’t climb down from its commitment to viewers to bring out the complete truth. Keen to ensure that journalistic best practices were employed at ZNL, the management too iterated the need for bringing in all the relevant versions in the mega coal-gate campaign. Accordingly, the channel editors in their pursuit of taking the story to a logical journalistic end agreed to meet Jindal’s senior executives at their bidding.
Unfortunately, we realize now the noble objective of seeking truth at our end, has been used to defame us with JSPL agreeing to meet us to only try and fix us, though admitting that eventually they could not fix. Perceiving the failure in their design they unleashed smearing and scurrilous allegations. Such moves and steps are not likely to derail us from pursuing the bold and clean journalism in pursuit of truth to which we are committed. Pursuit of truth has always given rise to efforts of framing by affected parties but ultimately the truth being straight and firm prevails, which we firmly believe to pronounce our innocence and unravel the nefarious effort to gag the investigative and analytical journalism, with an opportunity to all to present their view point.
Zee News Limited, which runs a network of news channels, enjoys the unstinted support of millions and millions of its loyal viewers. The channel hereby unequivocally rubbishes all charges leveled against its senior editorial staff. It declares its commitment to take the coal gate scam story to its logical end. The channel has in its possession enough evidence to support the story as also take it to its logical end undeterred by any external threat.
Zee News Limited would also like to place on record that it would take on legally the malicious charges leveled against it reposing full faith in the legal process and the system in our country. The channel’s journalistic stand would be vindicated and the guilt and nefarious designs of core vested interests keen to strike at the roots of the freedom of the press defeated.