Days after an Indian digital online newspaper, ThePrint published an article indicating that transmission of coronavirus through newspapers and currency notes were theoretically possible, Bennett Coleman and Co. Ltd., (Times Group) has issued a legal notice to the news website.
In a report published by ThePrint under the title ‘Transmission of coronavirus through newspapers, currency possible but unlikely: Experts,’ the news portal quoted experts who said there is a possibility of the virus reaching homes through paper products, including newspapers and currency notes.
The same was then acknowledged by the International News Media Association which stated that ‘it may be possible’ for a person to get COVID-19 by touching surfaces with the virus on it. However, it assured there has been no such reported incident and that such surfaces do carry “lowest potency for the shortest period of time”.
Subsequently, the notice issued on behalf of Times Group cited the report by ThePrint as an “unfair trade practice” and asked the online news portal to pull down the article since it “disparages newspapers and their operations with malicious intent.” It has also threatened to initiate civil or criminal proceedings if the demands are not complied with.
As per sources, the notice issued by the Times Group stated that “You (ThePrint) are a competitor to us and all newspaper organizations and your actions are anti-competitive in nature. At the time of abundant misinformation and cluttered internet space, you have tried to hurt your true competitors in an exercise of unfair trade practice to hurt your competition under a deep conspiracy, for which you are jointly and severally liable.”
Amid the 21-day country lockdown, the distribution of newspapers in most states have been severely hampered, with the vendors association having unanimously decided to suspend distribution until the COVID-19 is brought under control. Meanwhile, big newspapers have been negotiating with the government and the association to try and pressure them to start the circulation again. In various states like Maharashtra, most newspapers have been switched to e-papers.
Thus, the legal notice by the Times Group claimed that ThePrint through a “doctored” view of the situation, has acted to make wrongful gains and to cause unjustifiable loss to others. It further stated that the reports made by ThePrint are ‘absolutely without basis and without appropriate findings by any health or statutory authority’. The Times Group has also taken objection to the fact that it wasn’t approached for its views before the article was put out.
However, in its defense, ThePrint maintained that the report is ‘fair and accurate’ stating that the report is important and necessary considering the mysterious nature of the coronavirus and the largescale fears and misconceptions about it among people.
ThePrint further responded to the Times Group alluding that “We are also flattered that the venerable Times Group sees ThePrint, not three yet, as a ‘true competitor.”