Hyderabad: The Andhra Pradesh Police have issued notice to a television channel of Telangana for airing an audio tape of Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu’s purported telephonic conversation with nominated legislator Elvis Stephenson in the alleged cash-for-vote scandal.
The notice to T News, said to be part owned by Telangana Chief Minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao’s family, evoked strong condemnation from the management of the channel, journalists’ unions and ruling Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS), who termed it an attack on the freedom of the press.
The management of the channel took strong objection to the manner in which the notice was served by the police after midnight.
Police arrested scores of journalists on Saturday when they staged a protest in front of the office of Andhra Pradesh Director General of Police (DGP) condemning the notice issued to the channel.
Raising slogans against Naidu and holding placards, the media persons staged a sit-in.
Police stepped up security at Andhra Pradesh secretariat following reports that journalists were planning a similar protest there.
The assistant commissioner of police of Visakhapatnam issued the notice to the channel, asking it to reply within three days why legal action should not be taken against it for airing the defamatory audio tape.
The notice said the programme telecast on June 7 contained material disturbing public tranquillity and affecting the maintenance of law and order.
The police official said the programme was aired in violation of Section 5 and Rule 6 of cable TV news network Act, as it is “defamatory, deliberate, false with suggestive innuendos and half-truths”.
The channel management said the Andhra police had no right to issue the notice without registering a case and even before verifying the authenticity of the audio tape scientifically.
It also found fault with Andhra Pradesh Police for issuing the notice without informing the local police.
The audio tape was aired by T News a week after Telangana’s Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) arrested Telugu Desam Party (TDP) MLA A. Revanth Reddy and two others while they were trying to give a bribe of Rs.50 lakh to Stephenson to induce him to vote for the TDP-BJP candidate in the Telangana Legislative Council elections.
The audio tape triggered a bitter war of words between the two neighbours.
TRS has alleged that Naidu is the mastermind of the horse-trading while the Andhra Pradesh government has charged the TRS government with tapping the phones of Naidu and his cabinet colleagues.
The TDP government of Andhra Pradesh has also urged the central government to hand over powers to maintain law and order in Hyderabad to the governor as the city is the common capital of both the states for 10 years.