Media portal The Wire has been sued by Anil Ambani’s Reliance Group after it conducted a video discussion on the Rafale deal, the news website announced on Monday, 26 November.
MK Venu, founder-editor of The Wire, tweeted:
‘Not Targeting Ambani or Adani’
Speaking to The Quint, MK Venu said, "We are not targeting any organisation – Ambani or Adani. We are just asking questions of the government: Why are they being so generous to specific organisations? Where is the public money going?"
“These suits are nothing but harassment. They are the classic cases of SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation ),” he added.
“Ever since two months ago when the controversy about Rafale came into the limelight, they have been trying to silence the press. We are doing this in public interest... we will continue to fight,” Venu said.
Lawsuits Against the Press
Since October, Anil Ambani’s Reliance ADAG Group has sent defamation notices to media houses, opposition leaders, and others after the controversy over the Rafale deal erupted.
As far as the amount of damages claimed is concerned, news channel NDTV tops the list, with a Rs 10,000-crore defamation suit after it aired a programme on Rafale. The Citizen comes second with a defamation suit of Rs 7,000 crore filed against its founder-editor Seema Mustafa. The National Herald and AAP's Sanjay Singh have been sued for Rs 5,000 crore each.
Ambani’s ‘Defamation Blitz’
With the amount of damages claimed in 11 cases adding up to Rs 65,000 crore, The Telegraph has called this “the largest defamation blitz in recent memory in the country.”
On 25 November, Scroll reported about additional damages of Rs 15,500 crore in five other cases, which takes the amount of damages claimed in 16 cases to Rs 80,500 crore. The defendants range from media organisations to individual journalists and political opponents.
The international media has not been spared either, with suits slapped against organisations such as Bloomberg and the Financial Times, among others.
Not the First Lawsuit Against The Wire
This is not the first defamation case against The Wire. BJP President Amit Shah’s son, Jay Shah, had filed a suit against the news website, which was later stayed by the Supreme Court. The news website had also faced defamation charges filed by the Adani Group for an article published last year.
Reliance Vs The Wire
The Reliance Group has filed three cases against The Wire.
The first case was filed on 16 February by Reliance Communications and Reliance Infrastructure against MK Venu, Manager Radhakrishna Muralidhar and the Foundation for Independent Journalism, the non-profit that runs the website. The case was filed after the website published an analysis on the 2G verdict.
The second case was filed on 24 September by Reliance Infrastructure, Reliance Defence and Reliance Aerostructure against columnist Ajai Shukla, founding editors Siddharth Varadarajan, Siddharth Bhatia and MK Venu, along with Muralidhar and the Foundation of Independent Journalism.
The third case was filed the same day by Reliance Naval and Engineering against journalist Ravi Nair, Muralidhar, Venu, Varadarajan and the Foundation of Independent Journalism.
Nair, an independent journalist, had written about the Rafale deal for the news website.