Viewers of Power TV, a Kannada-language broadcaster based in Bengaluru, the state capital, have been deprived of its TV news coverage since 28 September, when local police raided the TV channel and seized laptops and hard disks, disabling its main server and thereby preventing it from broadcasting.
Power TV’s Facebook page and YouTube channel were also blocked on 28 September and its Twitter account has been inactive since then. At the same time, the home of its managing director and editor, Rakesh Shetty, was searched in response to a complaint accusing him of criminal intimidation, forgery, extortion, cheating and conspiracy.
Shetty’s crime was to have broadcast a series of investigative reports in September about a case of alleged corruption involving B.Y. Vijayendra, a local representative of India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party who also happens to be the son of Karnataka’s chief minister, Bookanakere Siddalingappa Yediyurappa.
According to Power TV’s investigation, the RCCL construction company bribed Vijayendra to get his father to ensure that it was awarded a major public housing construction contract worth 6.66 billion rupees (77 million euros).
“The shocking suspension of broadcasting by Power TV is a crude reprisal against a media outlet and its editor, whose only crime was investigative reporting in the Indian public interest,” said Daniel Bastard, the head of RSF’s Asia-Pacific desk. “We call on the supreme court to intervene to dismiss the complaints against this TV channel and to ensure respect for press freedom, which has been so flagrantly abused by Karnataka’s authorities.”
India is ranked 142nd out of 180 countries in RSF's 2020 World Press Freedom Index.