Mahua Moitra and Sudhir Chaudhary. Illustration: The Wire

The Zee News editor-in-chief claimed the TMC MP’s speech in parliament on ‘early fascism’ was plagiarised. 

 TMC MP Mahua Moitra has filed a criminal defamation case against Zee TV editor-in-chief Sudhir Chaudhary at the Patiala house court, New Delhi for alleging that her speech in parliament on ‘early signs of fascism’ was plagiarised.

Metropolitan magistrate Preeti Parewa has taken cognisance of the complaint and listed the matter for hearing on July 20, according to Bar & Bench. Moitra’s statement will be recorded on the same day.

Chaudhary had broadcast a programme saying Moitra’s speech was plagiarised from an article written by Martin Longman on US President Donald Trump. He said Moitra’s views were not her own and were “copy-pasted” from this article. On Twitter, Longman rejected the claim, while Moitra has also said she had clearly attributed that the speech was inspired from a poster that she saw at the US Holocaust Museum.

Moitra’s advocate Shadaan Farasat submitted before the court that the MP stated that the speech was inspired the poster. The poster lists 14 early warning signs of fascism and Moitra took took “(seven) signs (of early fascism)” and applied them to India, her advocate said.

After hearing the counsel, judge Parewa agreed to record the pre-summoning evidence of Moitra on July 20, Bar & Bench reported.

Moitra has also moved a breach of privilege motion in parliament against Zee News and Chaudhary for the latter’s claim. Speaker Om Birla said he had received a notice and that the matter was under consideration. When the MP named the channel and the editor, the speaker did not allow it because the journalist was not a member of the house.

In a statement issued to the press, Moitra said she has “immense respect for freedom of speech, as guaranteed under the constitution”, but that she also fears “tremendously the power of fake news”.

She said: “It is broadcasts and statements such as that which I have addressed in my criminal complaint for defamation, that taint the beliefs and opinions of the public.” Moitra added it is “important that individuals who make statements that are false to their knowledge, be brought to book.”

Saying that she has faith in the judiciary, she hoped her attempt would “create some inroads into addressing fake news”.

She acknowledged that “public office brings with it its share of criticism”. “I am a person who is willing to recognize my mistakes, acknowledge them, and learn from them. However, I solemnly hope that any such criticism of my public service is on account of acts of my own, and not on account of deliberate falsehoods,” the TMC MP concluded.

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