On October 5, former TV9 Chief Executive Officer and senior journalist Ravi Prakash was arrested in a cheating case filed by the new management of TV9, owned by Associated Broadcasting Company Private Limited (ABCPL). Alanda Media owns 90.5% stake in ABCPL. When a local court granted him bail on October 17, the same day, the state police arrested him again in relation to another case that was filed in May this year.
Journalists and media analysts are arguing that Ravi Prakash is being targeted by Alanda media which is close to the ruling Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) and are demanding his immediate release.
While hearing a quash petition filed by Ravi Prakash’s counsel on October 22, the Telangana High Court questioned the state police action asking why they have taken Ravi Prakash into custody in a 5-month-old case on the same day when he was granted bail in another case. The court also listed the final hearing for October 24.
According to media reports, the latest arrest pertains to a fake id case filed by a company, ILabs, which earlier had some stake in TV9. Sources told NewsClick that Ravi Prakash’s name was added in the complaint only a few days before the arrest.
According to the complaint filed by the new director of ABCPL, Ravi Prakash, who at that time was the director of ABCPL and was the authorised signatory to operate bank accounts, had fraudulently drawn amounts to the tune of Rs 18 crore, between June 2018 and May 2019.
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Senior journalist Revathi, former CEO of Mojo TV argued that the cases against Ravi Prakash are politically motivated and that his arrests are unlawful. Speaking to NewsClick, she said, “Ravi Prakash was being targeted by the new owners of TV9 who are pressuring him to handover his 8.25% stake in ABCPL to them.”
TV9 Take Over
Earlier this year, Alanda Media Private Limited, a consortium of businessmen including Jupally Rameshwar Rao, owner of real estate company My Home Group and PV Krishna Reddy, Managing Director of Megha Engineering and Infrastructure Limited (MEIL) acquired 90.5% stake in ABCPL while its long-term investor Srini Raju exited.
Ravi Prakash, who has been the CEO of the news channel since its foundation 15 year ago, was then sacked by the new owners.
Alanda Media in April this year has also filed two other cases against Ravi prakash including one signature forgery case. He had taken conditional bails in these cases. Prakash had earlier told several media houses that the owners of Alanda media, being close to CM K Chandrashekar Rao, had plotted to strip away his editorial and operational independence.
Journalist bodies including the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) and state journalist unions have condemned his arrest.
“Ravi Prakash is clearly being persecuted in retaliation for critical coverage on the Tolivelugu news website,” stated CPJ. Tolivelugu is a news website headed by Ravi Prakash. According to Tolivelugu journalists, they were pressurised to remove two video interviews from their YouTube channel on the ongoing Telangana State Road Transport Corporation (TSRTC) strike by 49,000 workers. However, when Ravi Prakash refused to bow down to the pressure, he was taken into custody on October 5, according to the employees of Tolivelugu.
One video is an interview of Ashvathama Reddy, TSRTC Joint Action Committee chairman, who alleges that CM KCR is all set to privatise TSRTC and wants to hand over contracts to MEIL. In another video interview, Congress leader Bhatti Vikramarka alleges existence of massive corruption in the project construction of Kaleshwaram irrigation project worked out by MEIL, which has a stake in Alanda media.
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On October 8, Revathi had written a letter to Prime Minister’s Office alleging multiple scams by companies owned by PV Krishna Reddy. In the letter, she stated that Krishna Reddy and Rameshwar Rao have taken over all the big media houses in Hyderabad “illegally and with muscle power”. “With this iron hand control on the media, all their atrocities against common men and the scams are not been shown to the public,” she further stated.
Incidentally, Income Tax department conducted raids on the office premises of MEIL in Hyderabad, NCR and Mumbai on October 10 and seized unaccounted assets of Rs 17.4 crore. “Evidence of large-scale bogus expenses, over-invoicing of purchase and sub-contract expenses have been found and seized. The group also indulged in out of books transactions and manipulation of books to suppress its taxable profits,” Income Tax department stated in a press release.