A day after Sudhir Chaudhary and Samir Ahluwalia, senior editors of Zee News Limited, were arrested in connection with an extortion case filed by Jindal Steel group, Zee News on Wednesday came in support of their staffers.
The news channel claimed that the police action was "illegal" and "designed to achieve something else".
Addressing a press conference at the Constitution Club, Zee News CEO Alok Agrawal termed the arrest "an attack on the media and on the freedom of the press" and demanded the immediate release of the two journalists.
Denying allegations of attempt to extort Rs. 100 crore from Jindal Power and Steel Ltd (JSPL) for not airing news reports linking the company to the coal block allocation scam, Agrawal accused UPA-II of "intimidating" the media because of its "mistakes".
"In 65 years of democracy, this is the second time that the media is being censored but this time it is without putting an official stamp of Emergency," he said.
During the press conference, RK Handoo, lawyer for Zee News, questioned the arrests and its timing. He alleged that the arrests were deliberately made before a holiday so that regular bail could be denied. Handoo said the arrests have been made under a section that speaks of a non-bailable offence.
"The FIR was registered on October 2 and the arrests were made after 45 days and that too when the two editors were co-operating in the investigation whenever they were asked to join it. What was the need for the arrest? It was designed for something else. It is a nefarious gameplan," Handoo said.
Agrawal claimed that it was the Congress MP who offered money as bribe to the Zee editors first and then to the company.
On the other hand, the JSPL, in a statement here, said: "The arrest of the two journalists being termed black day is rather demeaning the credibility of the media. Instead, black day was the day when these editors tried to extort Rs. 100 crore from Jindal group under the garb of media."