COVID Audio Clip Row: ORTEL Staffer Among Two Arrested In Odisha Capital

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Bhubaneswar: Police arrested two persons in the city on Monday for allegedly circulating false information about COVID-19 pandemic in an audio clipping on social media.

The accused were identified as Laxmikant Behera (46), an employee of ORTEL Communication, and Biswajit Mohanty (47), a businessman from Palasuni area.

“The said clip was reportedly propagated by a news channel named OTV. On examination and prima facie investigation, it has been found that the audio recording has been prepared and circulated, edited, uploaded and propagated with mala fide and mischievous intention as the clip contains misleading and false information about COVID pandemic,” the Commissionerate Police said in a release.

“The mischievous conversation is trying to make others believe that there is false corona positive reports, persons are being shifted to hospitals falsely showing them as positive, there is a certain target for a number of patients to be fetched by hospitals, etc. This goes against the guidelines related to the management of the present disaster and violates many legal provisions, thus attracting criminal action,” the release added.

Police said the two accused will be forwarded to court later in the day.

Talking to the media after his arrest, Biswajit said that he had sent the audio clip to 20-25 friends in a social media group regarding management in the COVID hospital. He said the clipping was based on the experience of his friend, Laxmikant (the ORTEL employee), who had been undergoing treatment at the hospital after testing COVID-19 positive.

Biswajit added that he had no intention to mislead anyone.

On his part, Laxmikant said he had shared his experience with his friend during his treatment at the COVID hospital. But he had no idea that his friend was recording the conversation on his mobile phone, he claimed.

Notably, after the audio clipping went viral and aired by OTV, Bhubaneswar Municipal Corporation (BMC) had served notice to the media house and lodged a complaint at Capital Police Station. Based on the complaint, police had registered a case under various sections on August 7.

Meanwhile, opposition parties, the media and legal experts have condemned BMC’s action against the news channel. They accused the government of trying to stifle the media’s voice in gross violation of the right to freedom of speech enshrined in the Constitution.

In a related development, the chief finance officer of OTV, Manoranjan Sarangi, issued a clarification that OTV and ORTEL Communication are two different entities that are run by their respective managements. ORTEL Communication is under the lenders and banks for the last three years and the Panda family have no control over this company. Apart from this, the ORTEL Board has remained suspended for a long time, according to the clarification.

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