Marathi channel that aired Kirit Somaiya’s video goes blank after I&B notice

By, Mumbai
Sep 23, 2023 06:41 AM IST

The Ministry of I&B has ordered the closure of a Marathi news channel for 72 hours after it aired a video showing a compromising situation involving Somaiya.

More than two months after a Marathi news channel aired a video showing BJP leader Kirit Somaiya in a compromising position, the ministry of information and broadcasting on Friday evening issued a directive ordering the channel’s closure for 72 hours.

BJP leader Kirit Somaiya(HT File)
BJP leader Kirit Somaiya(HT File)

Confirming the development, Lokshahi’s editor-in-chief Kamlesh Sutar said, “We received a notice from the ministry about the Kirit Somaiya story we had carried. We have also received an instruction to shut down our channel for the next 72 hours.”

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When contacted, Somaiya said the video was a new type of political blackmail with the help of a television channel. “This has stopped now. I got justice.”

The opposition parties and journalists’ associations have strongly reacted to the Centre’s move.

READ | FIR against 2 for leaking Somaiya ‘obscene’ video

State Congress’s general secretary Sachin Sawant said this order shows democracy is in danger. “India ranks 161 in the press freedom index and very soon we will drop to the bottom of the list.’’

Vinod Jagdale, president of the TV Journalists’ Association, called the action unjust. “The incident requires to be investigated. This is not good for the future of TV journalism.”

The Mantralaya and Council Hall Reporters’ Association condemned the order and said this is a ploy to throttle the expression of free speech.

Lokshahi channel ran the video on July 17 triggering a political storm in the monsoon session of the legislature. The channel also claimed it had access to 36 such videos.

READ | Kirit Somaiya’s sleazy video clip appears genuine: Police

The opposition parties were quick to demand a thorough investigation to find out if there was exploitation of women. Uddhav Thackeray-led Shiv Sena (UBT) even staged protests against Somaiya, a former MP.

Even BJP’s alliance partner, Shiv Sena, did not even spare Somaiya. Legislative council’s deputy chairperson Neelam Gorhe appealed to the victim in the alleged video to come forward and file a complaint.

Later, Maharashtra State Commission for Women chairperson Rupali Chakankar asked the Mumbai police commissioner to conduct an in-depth probe and submit a report. “Women victims must come up and lodge police complaints,” she said.

Somaiya, however, alleged a conspiracy against him and wrote to deputy chief minister Devendra Fadnavis and the Mumbai police chief seeking an investigation into the episode. On July 18, Fadnavis ordered a police probe after Ambadas Danve, leader of opposition in the council, handed over a pen drive to the presiding officer which he claimed contained eight such video clips.

Acting on Somaiya’s complaint, the Mumbai police’s cyber cell on September 6 booked the channel’s editor-in-chief and Anil Thatte, a YouTuber, under section 500 (punishment for defamation) of the Indian Penal Code and section 67(A) and 66 (e) of the Information Technology Act. No arrests have been made in the case so far. Thatte too had aired the video.

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