Govt Has No Info on Arnab’s Chat in TRP Case: Kishan Reddy in LS

During Question Hour in LS Reddy said: “No such information has come to the notice of the government.”

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Politics
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G Kishan Reddy said the government has no information on leak of sensitive information in the Lok Sabha. 
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The Centre has no information about the leak of sensitive information in the purported WhatsApp conversations of Republic TV Editor-in-Chief Arnab Goswami in the TRP case, observed Minister of State for Home, G Kishan Reddy in the Lok Sabha on Tuesday, 16 March.

There were around 500 pages of WhatsApp conversations of ex-CEO of the Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC) Partho Dasgupta’s that was part of the chargesheet, including alleged conversations with Goswami.

The alleged chats includes several controversial conversations between Goswami and Dasgupta, regarding various news events (and Republic’s coverage of them), including the Pulwama attack and the Balakot air strike in February 2019.

Reddy’s Response

Six members of the Parliament, Mohammed Faizal, Adoor Prakash, Subbarayan K, T N Prathapan, Vincent H Pala, and Jasbir Singh Gill posed a question to Reddy on whether the government has taken cognisance of the leak of WhatsApp chats on confidential and sensitive information, including scrapping of Article 370, which surfaced during investigation of the TRP scam by Mumbai Police. If yes, whether any inquiry or action has been taken in this regard.

Reddy’s written response in the Lok Sabha Question Hour was, “No such information has come to the notice of the government.”

What Had Happened?

The alleged TRP scam came to light last year after a complaint was filed by an executive of a BARC-affiliated research agency, alleging that the viewership data was being manipulated by some of these channels through contractors associated with the agency.

The modus operandi saw these contractors and other people making fixed monthly payments to the BARC-empanelled families to view only certain channels/programmes—neither the agency nor BARC were aware of this till their internal audits started throwing up irregularities.

The Mumbai Police had earlier filed a supplementary chargesheet in the fake TRP scam case that included extensive purported chats, which were also leaked on social media, causing huge public uproar.

Congress Leaders Had Called for a Probe

As soon as the leaked contents of the WhatsApp chat surfaced on social media in January, several Congress leaders, including former Finance Minister P Chidambaram and former Chief Minister of Maharashtra Prithviraj Chavan asked for a probe into the matter.

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi had said in January that giving official secret information to a journalist is a ‘criminal act.’ Other Congress leaders asked whether Goswami had prior knowledge of the Balakot airstrikes.

What Did the Chats Say?

The alleged chats between Goswami and former Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC) CEO Partho Dasgupta included several controversial alleged conversations between Goswami and Dasgupta, regarding various news events (and Republic’s coverage of them), including the Pulwama attack and the Balakot air strike in February 2019.

On 14 February 2019, a terrorist attack on a CRPF convoy near Pulwama led to the death of 40 military personnel. In alleged texts to Dasgupta on the day, Goswami first purportedly mentions that his channel was “20 minutes ahead on the biggest terrorist attack of the year in Kashmir”.

He then appears to go on to say, with regard to his channel’s coverage: “This attack we have won like crazy”.

On 23 February 2019, three days before Indian Air Force conducted a retaliatory strike on a reported terrorist camp in Pakistan at Balakot, Goswami allegedly told Dasgupta that “something big will happen.”

The chats also show Goswami complaining about TRP rankings of his competitors, while Dasgupta complains to him about the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) and requests to help him get an advisor post with the Prime Minister’s Office.

Goswami also appears to have had some advance knowledge of the abrogation of Article 370 and the resultant change in the status of Jammu and Kashmir, which the government pushed through on 5 August 2019.

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