A political war has erupted over WhatsApp transcripts of TV anchor Arnab Goswami submitted by Mumbai Police to a court, with the opposition demanding an investigation into chats linked to the Balakot air strike to retaliate against the terror attack on a security convoy in Pulwama in February 2019.
The transcripts are a part of the Mumbai police charge-sheet on the ratings scam, in which Arnab Goswami’s Republic TV and two other channels are accused of gaming TRPs or Television Rating Points by manipulating households metred for viewership.
The transcripts of chats between Arnab Goswami and Partho Dasgupta, the former CEO of ratings agency BARC, have the TV anchor saying three days before the Balakot strike that “something big will happen”. He also said it would be “bigger than a normal strike” and “the government is confident of striking in a way that people will be elated.”
When the ex-BARC chief asked if it was about “Dawood”, the Republic TV anchor replied, “No sir Pakistan. Something major will be done this time.”
The conversation is dated February 23, 2019, three days before India sent Air Force jets to Balakot in Pakistan to destroy a Jaish-e-Mohammad terror base.
The opposition has demanded a Joint Parliamentary Committee investigation into whether national security was compromised.
“Did a journalist (and his friend) know about the retaliatory strike on Balakot camp three days before the actual strike? If yes, what is the guarantee that their ‘source’ did not share the information with others as well, including spies or informers working for Pakistan? How did a ‘For Your Eyes Only’ decision find its way to the government-supporting journalist?” tweeted Congress leader P Chidambaram, a former Union Minister.
Did a journalist (and his friend) know about the retaliatory strike on Balakot camp three days before the actual strike?
— P. Chidambaram (@PChidambaram_IN) January 17, 2021
“The government gave sensitive information to Arnab Goswami. Information about Balakot and Article 370 was given to him,” said Trinamool Congress member Mahua Moitra.
In a strong message, the News Broadcasters Association (NBA) said: “These messages clearly establish collusion between the two in manipulating ratings to garner greater viewership numbers for Republic TV month after month by fraudulently manually reducing ratings of other channels to give Republic TV an unfair advantage. These WhatsApp messages not only reflect manipulation of ratings but is also about power play.”
Republic TV’s response came in a statement to Pakistan in which it accused the Congress and “anti-Republic media” of helping the Pakistani narrative. “Every Indian wanted revenge for the Pulwama terrorist attack, so for some in the Indian media to question why Republic expected the same is shameless opportunism,” said the channel.