News channel India Today on October 2 issued a statement seeking the government's explanation about how a conversation by one of its reporters, who was covering the case of gangrape and murder of a Dalit woman by upper-caste men in Uttar Pradesh's Hathras, was leaked on social media.
The media group asked why the woman's family was under kept surveillance, and also questioned the legal basis for recording and leaking the telephonic conversations.
The telephone conversation between India Today reporter Tanushree Pandey and the brother of the deceased, Sandeep has gone viral on social media.
In the clip, Pandey asks Sandeep to send her a video statement of the woman's father that he was being forced to go to the local police station and sign a document that mentioned they were "satisfied by the police probe" in the case.
Pandey refers to a video of the father shared by Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi in which he said: "We are not satisfied with this. My daughter's case should be probed by the CBI and monitored by a Supreme Court judge. We are under pressure from officials and confined to our home while the media has also been disallowed from meeting us."
The BJP claimed that the alleged audio clip showed how the media was "misreporting" facts about the case and was forcing false statements out of the victim's family. During for a debate on India Today on Friday evening, BJP leader Amit Malviya claimed that the ban on the entry of media to Hathras was imposed because of the channel's false reporting.
"If the media has been disallowed, the credit goes to your channel and its coverage," Malviya told the channel. "There is an audio of your reporter Tanushree Pandey that has gone viral...your channel has souped out in Hathras and is misreporting. So clearly, the media particularly your group, has not much track record to speak about."
Malviya also cited the autopsy reports of the woman that seem to suggest that there was no rape. He claimed the victim's family filed different statements about her death, and it was a matter of investigation.
India Today, however, rejected all allegations and asked under what authority were phones were being tapped in the first place.
Hathras has turned into a fortress as thousands of cops guarded the district's borders and installed barricades about two kilometres from the village to stop anyone from entering the area.
The woman's family has alleged that their phones have been taken away by the police and have been placed under house arrest. Family members of the victim have alleged they are being stopped from speaking to media as the administration has imposed a ban on large gatherings in their village.
Hathras Additional Superintendent of Police Prakash Kumar on Friday said, "No politician or media person will be allowed entry into the woman's village in Hathras until the Special Investigation Team formed by the Uttar Pradesh government completes its investigation."
Meanwhile, the Uttar Pradesh government on Friday suspended the Hathras SP and four other police officers over their handling of the case.
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