07:07 GMT02 April 2020
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    India’s Supreme Court is hearing a case on the multi-billion dollar Rafale fighter jet purchase deal; the current government has been accused of corruption and bypassing established procedures. An Indian newspaper had published reports incriminating the government, based on leaked classified documents which the government has said were ‘stolen’.

    New Delhi (Sputnik): The former editor of The Hindu newspaper and the current chairman of the media house that publishes the daily, N.Ram, exonerated his journalists from any wrongdoing, saying that they had published the Rafale report in the public's interest and were protected under Indian laws, according to media reports.

    Ram said this at the backdrop of the plea made by the Attorney General of India in the Supreme Court, which is hearing the review petition on the Rafale defence deal case, that documents pertaining to the deal that were with the media house which had published its report with a narrative contrary to the one by Narendra Modi's government were stolen. The government had threatened to proceed legally against the newspaper under the Official Secrets Act under Indian Law.

    READ MORE: Top Indian Court to Review its Earlier Judgement on $8.7 Billion Rafale Deal

    "We did not steal the documents from the Ministry of Defence, we got them from confidential sources and no force on earth can make me or us reveal the source of the documents because we have given our word," Ram reiterated.

    "We are fully protected under Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution of India which gives freedom of expression, and also by the Right to Information Act, specifically Sections 8(1)(i) and 8(2), which override the Official Secrets Act of 1920," he asserted.

    He clarified that his editorial team had exercised due diligence and published only those details that were necessary for the public to know.

    "The Hindu had exercised due diligence in its investigation, and not everything that came to hand was unloaded in the public realm," he said.

    Ram also commented on the possibility of government threats against his newspaper constituting a threat to investigative journalism, saying that there has been fear in the media ecosystem, but the government's attempt to stifle the media is unlikely to succeed.

    READ MORE: India to Purchase 21 Russian MiG-29 Jets to Improve Air Combat Strength — Report

    "Today it's not just The Hindu, but also some other independent news publications which have put out material on Rafale. There has been an overarching fear in the media ecosystem under this government but the Indian press is now willing to do more. And the very fact that the issue has been covered in a big way shows that the blanket of silence that some would like to be imposed on this matter has been breached," he said.

    Meanwhile, the opposition parties have demanded a thorough probe, in light of the alleged corruption charges against the Modi-led government.

    The government-to-government deal between France and India to purchase 36 Rafale fighter jets signed in 2016 has been scrutinised, with Indian opposition leaders alleging major corruption and favouritism in the $8.7 billion deal.


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    sources, journalist intimidation, secret documents, Narendra Modi, India, France
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