The prosecution reportedly informed the court that the staff named in the FIR are not cooperating with the probe even as a special team of police continued searches on the premises of Mangalam TV office in Thiruvananthapuram. Police had filed FIR against Ajith Kumar, the investigation team leader S Narayanan alias K Jayachandran and others based on a complaint lodged by the youth wing of the Nationalist Congress Party.
The accused were reportedly charged with conspiracy, cheating, violation of the IT Act and broadcast rules. Various media organisations have also come out against the channel as the plan for its launch to strike it rich with a sleaze audio tape backfired. An audio tape aired on Sunday last with all fan fare coinciding with its launch resulted in 71-year-old AK Saseendran quitting as transport minister.
The audio clippings had the Nationalist Congress Party leader having a steamy conversation with a woman whose voice was deleted. The channel initially claimed that the minister was having the ‘immoral’ telephonic conversation with a housewife who approached him for some help. Following this, the Pinarayi Vijayan-led government ordered a judicial probe. The judicial commission is headed by retired judge PS Antony.
The news channel, which edited the woman’s voice, while telecasting the audio clippings of the minister’s “steamy conversation”, claimed moral high ground. It said it got all evidence to substantiate its claim. But it drew the ire of social media users who condemned the media intrusion into private lives, and questioned the channel’s claim particularly when the ‘victim’ had not lodged a police complaint against Saseendran.
Last week, the Mangalam office witnessed protests by women journalists. The Network of Women in Media (NWMI) wrote to chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan against the channel’s attitude towards women. Amid the backlash, Ajith Kumar on Thursday night went live with an unconditional apology. He admitted that it was sting operation and not a real incident as they claimed earlier. The channel also clarified that the lady who spoke to Saseendran was a staff and not an housewife as they claimed during the airing of the clippings. A woman staffer, followed by few others including MM Ragesh, deputy news editor at Kozhikode bureau, quit the channel.
The woman staffer lashed out at those behind the ‘sting operation’ or ‘honey trap’ as being described by local media. She alleged smear campaign against her by the management and reportedly said she went through shameful moments as a journalist and woman after it aired the tape.
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