Baijayant Panda’s Tweet Triggers A Row; Know Why

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Bhubaneswar: After remaining silent on the alleged police excesses on a reporter of leading Odia TV channel OTV, former MP Baijayant Jay Panda has equated the law and order situation in Odisha with that in Pakistan.

Drawing parallels with assault on a journalist of Republic TV in Maharashtra, the BJP national vice-president termed the situation in the two states as “real fascism”.

In a tweet, the former Kendrapada MP said, “Shameful how Maharashtra & Odisha police simply “pick up” & assault journalists & do custodial interrogation, without following the basic process of law, like in Pakistan. This is real fascism. Please speak up for Ramesh Rath of @OTV & Pradip103 of @republic (Sic).”

The BJP leader’s tweet drew both support as well as criticism from social media users. Here are a few samples:

This is how some BJP leaders reacted to his statement.

The police had recently picked up the OTV reporter from near his house in connection with an obscene video purportedly involving Keonjhar MP Chandrani Murmu that surfaced during the 2019 general elections. OTV alleged that the police acted without any court order and did not allow Rath to contact anybody during detention.

It also claimed that it was being targeted for running stories exposing mismanagement of COVID funds. Rath was picked up by police a day after the channel telecast a story, based on RTI findings, casting doubts on CM Naveen Patnaik’s aerial survey of flood-hit areas on August 31.

While police has clarified that Rath was questioned in connection with the obscene video, the issue has kicked up a row. The Keonjhar MP has blamed OTV MD Jagi Mangat Panda, who is facing land grab, atrocity and POCSO violation cases, and Baijayant of protecting their reporter allegedly involved in morphing her image in the obscene video. OTV is owned by the Panda family.

Similarly, Maharashtra police detained Republic TV reporter Pradeep Bhandari and questioned him for 9 hours on Saturday. The national channel, led by Arnab Goswami, which has turned controversial because of its coverage of certain issues and alleged TRP manipulation scandal, claimed its journalist was subjected to inhuman treatment during questioning.

It had also run a story on the OTV reporter case highlighting the alleged attempt of the two state governments to curb Press freedom. Arnab also anchored a debate on the issue.

On Saturday, Bhubaneswar MP Aparajita Sarangi also criticised the police action in case of the OTV reporter.

Earlier, Editors’ Guild of India condemned the incident and said it “threatened as well as undermined the independent functioning of the media organisations” and “should be withdrawn forthwith”.

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