Suman Chhattopadhyay, the editor of Ei Samay, the Bengali newspaper published by The Times of India group was arrested last month by the CBI for embezzlement of money in the chit fund scam.
And the Editors Guild of India has issued this extraordinary statement.
The Editors Guild of India has expressed concern over the recent arrest of a senior editor, Suman Chattopadhyay, by the CBI on reported charges of financial misdemeanour. At the time of his arrest, Mr Chattopadhyay was the editor of Ei Samay, a Bengali newspaper published from Kolkata.
The Guild believes that nobody has immunity from law and it must take its own course, but warns that the views held by Mr Chattopadhyay in discharging his editorial responsibilities should not be held against him or become a factor in the investigation. The Guild wants the government to make sure that its investigative agencies are totally fair and professional in pursuing this investigation and prosecution.
The Guild has also urged the law enforcement authorities to provide Mr Chattopadhyay all the options and facilities that are available to all citizens for seeking due legal recourse.emphasis added
The statement is remarkable for many reasons.
First, it comes nearly two weeks after the December 20 arrest.
Second, it stops short of naming the government: is it Mamata Banerjee‘s or Narendra Modi‘s government it is warning? Since it is the CBI, it has to be Modi’s BJP-led NDA government but you will be hardpressed to find it.
Third, it displays a near-complete absence of the moral compass: thousands of poor people were scammed by the ponzi scheme from which the Editor is reported to have financially benefitted (nearly Rs 100 crore according to one published report).
And above all, like in most crimes involving journalists or media houses, the Guild sees the Editor’s arrest as an attempt to muzzle his “views“.
Is there anything on record with the Editors Guild, except maybe a lame letter from his employers or spouse, to suggest that Chhattopadhyay has been arrested for speaking out against Mamata or Modi?
The news of the scam broke when the Left front regime of Buddhadeb Bhattacharya was in office. It preceded and provided the backdrop to Mamata Banerjee‘s election. The investigation has been through Narendra Modi‘s tenure.
So, for views against which of them has Chhattopadhyay been targeted?
On the website of the Anil Ambani-promoted TV channel BTVi, Shantanu Guha Ray writes:
In Kolkata, the Ponzi owners were the city’s ideal carpetbaggers. As they grew in prominence and splurged cash all around, they needed Suman Chattopadhyay on their side to expand their business.
Chattopadhyay owned a media house – Disha Productions & Media Ltd – that owned Disha, a Bengali magazine, and Ek Din, a Bengali newspaper. Cash for his ventures came from iCore. He took a little over Rs 40 crore, both from iCore and Sarada, with a bulk going to his personal accounts. He is also said to be involved in a dubious Rs 52 crore deal with Global Automobile, of which he was a director.
The owner of the company, Santanu Ghosh was arrested by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) for being linked to a Rs 80 crore bank fraud. What let the cat out of the bag was the fact that he sold the magazine Disha for Rs 2 crore even though it had a negative net worth of Rs 7.28 crore.BTVi