Bollywood hits back with lawsuit over smear campaign

Bollywood hits back with lawsuit over smear campaign
Policemen are seen on June 14 near an ambulance carrying the body of Bollywood actor Sushant Singh Rajput outside the building where he lived in Mumbai. (Files/AP)
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Updated 14 October 2020

Bollywood hits back with lawsuit over smear campaign

Bollywood hits back with lawsuit over smear campaign
  • Film industry files case against 2 major news channels after several weeks of ‘slander’

PATNA: In an unprecedented move by the Hindi film industry on Monday, 38 of its top producers filed a lawsuit against two prominent news channels, accusing them of slander and asking them to refrain from “irresponsible, derogatory and defamatory remarks against Bollywood and its members.”

This follows several allegations by Republic TV and Times Now after the suspected suicide of actor Sushant Singh Rajput on June 14.

The case, which continues to be investigated, led to several rounds of speculation by both media houses, accusing prominent filmmakers of nepotism and promoting drug abuse. A section of the influential media, with the support of dissenting voices from Bollywood such as actress Kangana Ranaut, was also accused of a vicious vilification campaign against the film industry, calling it a “den of debauchery, drugs, womanizing” and other vices.

Both news channels had also reported that many Bollywood celebrities were part of a drug mafia, which Rajput had fallen prey to, eventually driving him to commit suicide.

The allegations are being probed by the Narcotics Control Bureau, India’s federal agency.

However, despite the spree of allegations, several producers and directors such as Karan Johar and Aditya Chopra, who were named in the smear campaign, had chosen to keep mum — until now.

Dozens of Bollywood producers and production house owners, including Johar, Chopra, Sajid Nadiadwala, Farhan Akhtar, Aamir Khan, Shah Rukh Khan and Ajay Devgan, filed a lawsuit in the New Delhi High Court on Monday, in a significant retaliatory move.

When contacted by Arab News on Tuesday, Johar declined to comment. 

However, producer-director Hansal Mehta said it was “about time our film industry took action against the constant name-calling.”

“Better late than never,” he added.

Producer-director Sudhir Mishra, who has spent a “large part” of his adult life working in the film industry, said he was “deeply mortified” by the tone of the slander being used. 

“I come from a family of educationists. I gave up studying psychology or practicing clinical psychology in favor of being a filmmaker. I haven’t regretted my decision even once in the last 35 years. Mumbai welcomes and respects talent, no matter where it comes from. To accuse the city and Bollywood of illicit practices is terribly wrong,” he said.

In addition to prominent producers, the Producers Guild of India and the Cine and TV Artiste Association (CINTAA) were also named as plaintiffs in the lawsuit, which was issued by leading law firm DSK Legal. 

It pleads for the defendants to be barred from their derogatory remarks against individuals and the Bollywood industry.

Actress Swara Bhaskara, who has been vocal against the vilification campaign from the onset, said she welcomed the move.

“It’s a most welcome move. During the last few months, the way we’ve seen our film industry vilified by two channels, Times Now and Republic TV, is shameful and irresponsible, as much of their campaign was based on salacious rumors and hearsay. A lot of the accusations were inaccurate and defamatory,” she told Arab News.

Bhaskara added that while Bollywood had its blind spots, labeling the entire industry as “evil” was wrong. 

“There are plenty of hardworking actors and technicians. You can’t write them off as undesirable just to be newsy and sensational. Everyone’s livelihood was affected by this smear campaign. It is so heartening to see all production houses, big and small, joining hands to fight for their reputation,” she said, adding that the lawsuit’s demands were “reasonable.”

“It’s not saying the two offending channels should be gagged. The lawsuit asks for the channels to be prevented from badmouthing our film industry. That’s only reasonable.”

Meanwhile, a statement released by the CINTAA said the association “thought it was befitting to break its silence in retaliation to those who are out to defame and slander its members.”

“The industry, for the larger part, is a safe haven and yes, we would be the first to acknowledge that like in any other sector, there may exist some bad elements, and by recognizing and weeding them out, we are constantly looking to improve ourselves. However, the exuberance showcased by some anchors to capture eyeballs is outrageous, and [their claims are] without any hard evidence. We deeply condemn such impetuous topics of debate that tarnish the image of a whole community,” it said.

Media guru Pritish Nandy agreed and added that the “unfounded attack” on the industry had “malicious” intent.

“Everybody has the right to protect their reputation. And that is exactly what the film industry is trying to do. Social media and anchor tantrums on television cannot take over the life of this nation,” he told Arab News.

Nandy’s sentiments were echoed by veteran actress and politician Jaya Bachchan who had raised the issue in Parliament recently. 

“It’s time for the film industry to defend itself. If we don’t defend ourselves, who will?”

The lawsuit explicitly names four journalists — Navika Kumar, Rahul Shiv Shankar, Arnab Goswami and Pradip Bhandari — and includes, among other complaints, their usage of words such as “druggies,” “filthy,” “scummy” and “debauched,” accusing them of using persuasive speech to convince a large section of Indian viewers that the film industry was a den of vice.

And while Goswami and Kumar have declined to comment, the latter posted a tweet on Monday urging for “truth” to prevail.

“If fighting for justice invites court cases, bring it on. All the a-listers can come together but India will continue to fight for the truth. You can’t intimidate us @TimesNow & can’t take away the viewers who believe in us. Let Truth prevail.”


Arab Parliament speaker begins first visit to Pakistan to boost ties

Arab Parliament speaker begins first visit to Pakistan to boost ties
Updated 01 August 2021

Arab Parliament speaker begins first visit to Pakistan to boost ties

Arab Parliament speaker begins first visit to Pakistan to boost ties
  • Several agreements expected to be signed
  • Visit first of its kind, says parliament in tweet

ISLAMABAD: Arab Parliament Speaker Adel Abdulrahman Al-Asoumi arrived in Pakistan on Sunday for a five-day visit to boost bilateral cooperation.
The parliament is the Arab League’s legislative body, with Al-Asoumi leading a high-profile delegation that will meet President Arif Ali, Prime Minister Imran Khan, Senate Chairman Muhammed Sadiq Sanjrani and other senior political leaders.
“Several memorandum of understanding and agreements will be signed between the Arab Parliament and the Upper House of Pakistan (senate) to promote institutional cooperation,” the Senate said.
Senator Sana Jamali welcomed the delegation on its arrival and described the Arab Parliament as a “very important forum.”
“The common goal is to pave the way for the development of bilateral cooperation and mutual relations,” Jamali told Arab News, saying that the delegation’s main activities would start from Monday.
“Their first engagement is at the House of Federation (Senate), where the chairman will welcome them. After meeting with (the) chairman, MOUs and agreements will be signed there.” 
Jamali added that the group would hold talks with Alvi and Khan later in the day.
“The agreements will focus on strengthening (the) bonding between Pakistani and Arab parliaments. The main areas are bilateral parliamentarian exchanges, economic and cultural cooperation between member countries,” she said.
The parliament tweeted that the visit would be the “first of its kind.”
“This visit aims to strengthen Arab parliamentary relations with the Pakistani side, especially in light of positive developments and remarkable growth in relations between the two sides in the political, economic, security and military fields,” it said.


UK court ruling raises concerns over return of terror suspects

UK court ruling raises concerns over return of terror suspects
Updated 01 August 2021

UK court ruling raises concerns over return of terror suspects

UK court ruling raises concerns over return of terror suspects
  • High Court ruled in favor of suspected Daesh member stripped of British citizenship
  • Govt decision deemed unlawful as she had not been informed

LONDON: An English court decision on Friday could pave the way for dozens of terror suspects to return to the UK.
The High Court ruled in favor of a grandmother who was stripped of her British citizenship after being suspected of belonging to Daesh, together with her daughters.
The woman, known as D4, was a suspected national security threat and had her citizenship revoked in 2019. She now resides in a detention camp in northeast Syria.
The court ruled that the UK government’s decision to revoke her citizenship was unlawful as she had not been informed of the move.
The ruling has raised concerns that other terror suspects could return to the UK. A government source told The Times: “It will open up the prospect of people judged to be a national security risk being sent back here.”
Former Conservative Cabinet member David Davis warned: “This chaotic outcome demonstrates that we need to revisit this policy so these people are treated with justice, but people liable for crimes are dealt with under British law.”
Sources said at least 28 terror suspects could use the ruling to stage their own legal cases in a bid to return to the UK.


UK govt under fire for not retaliating against tanker attack 

UK govt under fire for not retaliating against tanker attack 
Updated 01 August 2021

UK govt under fire for not retaliating against tanker attack 

UK govt under fire for not retaliating against tanker attack 
  • Tehran blamed for drone strike off Omani coast that killed Briton, Romanian
  • British silence means ‘we have let Iran get away with murder,’ expert tells Arab News

LONDON: The UK government has been criticized for failing to retaliate after a British Army veteran was killed in an alleged Iranian drone attack on an oil tanker off Oman’s coast.
The unidentified Briton was killed on Saturday after a so-called kamikaze drone struck the oil tanker he was serving on as a security officer. 
Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid blamed Tehran for the attack on the Mercer Street vessel, and urged Britain to retaliate. UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, however, has remained silent on the incident.
Lapid said: “I noted (to Raab) the need to respond severely to the attack. Iran is not just an Israeli problem, but an exporter of terror, destruction and instability that hurt us all. The world must not be silent in the face of Iranian terror.” 
Sam Armstrong, director of communications at the London-based Henry Jackson Society think tank, told Arab News: “Despite Iran’s regular offenses, Britain has continued to look the other way. From the kidnapping of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe to drone attacks on Saudi oilfields, the hijacking of British-flagged boats and the support of terror activities that have killed Britons around the Middle East, we have let Iran get away with murder.”
He added: “Weakly ignoring these violations and attacks only inspires Tehran to commit worse atrocities. This policy will cost more British lives. Not only is this a naive approach, hoping blindly that this terroristic regime will go away, but it’s also a stupid one that threatens the security of our nation.”
Israel is expected to launch a diplomatic assault on Iran via the UN, but it remains unclear if London will react to the drone strike, which also claimed the life of a Romanian worker. 
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken discussed the incident with Lapid and other regional partners “to investigate the facts, provide support, and consider the appropriate next steps.”
On Saturday, Israeli media carried a quote from a military officer saying a response to the attack on the Mercer Street would be forthcoming, adding: “The only question is how and when we’ll respond.”
Armstrong said: “While the US and Israel are holding discussions to determine what happened and plan a response, London is staying silent despite the loss of a Briton’s life. This cowardly silence demeans Britain on the world stage.”
He added: “We’re leaving the important work of defending our citizens and countering Iranian aggression to other countries.”
The UK Foreign Office said in a statement on Friday: “We are deeply concerned by today’s incident off the coast of Oman. Our thoughts are with the loved ones of the British and Romanian nationals killed in the incident. Vessels must be allowed to navigate freely in accordance with international law.”
Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said the allegations are “baseless,” but state TV channel Al-Alam said the drone strike was a “response to a recent Israeli attack” on a Syrian military airport.
The Syrian regime has been supported by Iranian forces, with Tehran viewing its survival as crucial to its own security.
The strike on the Mercer Street shared similar tactics and procedures to kamikaze drones operated by the Iran-backed Houthi militia in Yemen, where unmanned aircraft packed with explosives detonate on or near the intended target.

The Saudi-led coalition supporting Yemen’s internationally recognized government regularly intercepts Iranian-made drones in Yemen and the surrounding region.
The tanker was in the northern Indian Ocean — beyond Iran’s usual area of activity — when it was hit.

Zodiac Maritime, which operated the Japanese-owned tanker, said it is being directed to a “safe location” with a US naval escort.
Meir Javedanfar, an Iran and security researcher at Israel’s IDC Herzliya university, said the attack was “most probably” carried out by Iran.
The strike is a sign of rising tensions and the increasing severity of assaults on tankers. The deaths are the first fatalities following years of tanker attacks.


Thai protesters demand PM resign amid surge in COVID-19 cases

Thai protesters demand PM resign amid surge in COVID-19 cases
Updated 01 August 2021

Thai protesters demand PM resign amid surge in COVID-19 cases

Thai protesters demand PM resign amid surge in COVID-19 cases
  • ‘The government failed to provide vaccines on time and many of us haven’t had any vaccine yet’
  • On Sunday, Thailand reported 18,027 new infections and 133 new deaths from COVID-19

BANGKOK: Anti-government protesters in Thailand took to the streets in cars and motorcycles on Sunday, demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha over his handling of the spread of COVID-19, as the country struggles with its biggest outbreak to date.
In Bangkok, drivers honked horns and motorcyclists raised three-finger salutes — a gesture of resistance inspired by “The Hunger Games” movie — as they headed along a 20 km (12 miles) route stretching from the Democracy Monument in the center of the capital out to Don Muang International Airport.
“We can barely make a living now, all of my family members have been affected,” said a 47-year-old protester speaking from his car who only gave his first name “Chai,” for fear of government repercussions.
“The government failed to provide vaccines on time and many of us haven’t had any vaccine yet,” he said. “If we don’t come out to make our calls, the government will simply ignore us.”
There were also similar protests in other provinces.
The Southeast Asian country aims to inoculate 50 million people by the end of 2021, but so far, only 5.8 percent of its more than 66 million population are fully vaccinated, while about 21 percent have received at least one dose.
On Sunday, Thailand reported 18,027 new infections and 133 new deaths from COVID-19, bringing total accumulated cases to 615,314 and 4,990 fatalities.


Millions of Americans risk eviction as coronavirus cases spike

Millions of Americans risk eviction as coronavirus cases spike
Updated 01 August 2021

Millions of Americans risk eviction as coronavirus cases spike

Millions of Americans risk eviction as coronavirus cases spike
  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention feared homelessness would boost coronavirus infections

WASHINGTON: Millions of Americans could find themselves homeless starting Sunday as a nationwide ban on evictions expires, against a backdrop of surging coronavirus cases and political fingerpointing.
With billions in government funds meant to help renters still untapped, President Joe Biden this week urged Congress to extend the 11-month-old moratorium after a recent Supreme Court ruling meant the White House could not do so.
But Republicans balked at Democratic efforts to extend the eviction ban through mid-October, and the House of Representatives adjourned for its summer vacation Friday without renewing it.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said blocking the measure was “an act of pure cruelty... leaving children and families out on the streets,” in a tweet late Saturday.
Several left-wing Democrats had spent the night outside the Capitol in protest — calling out their colleagues over the failure to act.
“We slept at the Capitol last night to ask them to come back and do their jobs. Today’s their last chance,” tweeted Congresswoman Cori Bush, who has herself experienced homelessness and was joined by fellow progressives Ilhan Omar and Ayanna Pressley.
With the clock ticking down to Sunday, the country was braced for a heartbreaking spectacle — families with their belongings at the curbside wondering where to go.
One of those at risk is Terriana Clark, who was living out of a car with her husband and two stepchildren for much of last year, before finding a teaching job and an apartment in Harvey, Louisiana.
Jobless again and struggling to pay rent after a bout of illness, the 27-year-old told The New Orleans Advocate she applied to a local assistance program four months ago, but is still waiting for help.
“If it comes, it comes. If it don’t, it don’t,” she told the paper. “It’s going to be too late for a lot of people. A lot of people are going to be outside.”
Up north in Michigan, Mary Hunt, who makes minimum wage driving a medical taxi, likewise fell behind on her rent on a mobile home because she got sick with COVID-19.
She was served with eviction papers, and frets over what she will do with her stuff and her five cats and one dog.
“How do I choose which cats to keep? It’s not going to happen. I’m not going to leave any of them behind,” Hunt told National Public Radio this week.
“If I lose this house, then they go in the car with me. And people can think I’m a crackpot, but I’m not giving up my family,” Hunt said.
Unlike other pandemic-related aid that was distributed from Washington, such as stimulus checks, it was states, counties, and cities that were responsible for building programs from the ground up to dole out assistance earmarked for renters.
The Treasury Department said that as of June, only $3 billion in aid had reached households out of the $25 billion sent to states and localities in early February, less than three weeks after Biden took office.
Pelosi in another tweet Saturday urged “state and local governments to immediately disburse the $46.5 billion in emergency rental assistance approved by the Democratic Congress so that many families can avoid eviction.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) ordered the eviction moratorium in September 2020, as the world’s largest economy lost over 20 million jobs amid the pandemic shutdowns. The CDC feared homelessness would boost coronavirus infections.
Although more than half of those jobs were since recovered, many families still have not caught up on missed rent payments.
The Census Bureau’s latest Household Pulse survey showed that of 51 million renters surveyed, 7.4 million were behind on rent and nearly half of those said they risked being evicted in the next two months.
Nearly 80 percent of households that are behind on their rent as of early July lived in COVID-19 hot spots, according to a study by the Jain Family Institute.
“Putting people out on the street is probably not going to have good effects on community transmission rates,” the institute’s housing policy researcher Paul Williams told CBS MoneyWatch.
Immediately after taking over, the Biden administration had eased paperwork and eligibility requirements for an emergency rental assistance program, but it has stressed that management remains in the hands of state and local officials.
“There can be no excuse for any state or locality not accelerating funds to landlords and tenants that have been hurt during this pandemic,” Biden warned Friday.
The CDC eviction moratorium and other protections prevented an estimated 2.2 million eviction filings since March 2020, said Peter Hepburn, a research fellow at the Eviction Lab at Princeton University.