New Delhi, January 20, 2021: Amid controversy over the purported WhatsApp chats of Republic TV Editor-in-Chief Arnab Goswami, Congress leader AK Antony addressed a press conference on Wednesday, 20 January, saying that the leaking of official secrets about a military operation is treason and that those involved must be punished.
Wednesday’s briefing by Congress came on the heels of comments made by party leader Rahul Gandhi on Tuesday at another press conference, where he said that giving official secret information to a journalist is a ‘criminal act.’
"The distressing thing for me was that when 40 of our jawans died, someone said ’this is going to be very good for us’. I do not like this language. This is an anti-national act... It’s a criminal action, giving official secret information to a journalist. I want to know whether it was the PM of India, home minister, defence minister or NSA who told Goswami... These people call themselves patriots. But there is nothing patriotic about putting our Air Force at risk," Gandhi was quoted at saying a press briefing, after releasing a booklet on the three contentious farm laws.
On Wednesday, Antony made similar points, saying that it is very clear that classified documents concerning national security, concerning the most sensitive and secret airstrikes are with people who are not expected to be authorised to possess such documents.
“Leaking Official Secrets is a criminal act, leaking official secrets of national security matters or military operations, especially air force strikes is treason and anti-national activity. Whoever is involved has to be punished,” Antony said, adding that such people deserved no mercy and should be punished.
References to Balakot, Pulwama in Goswami’s Purported Chats
The alleged chats between Goswami and former Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC) CEO Partho Dasgupta include several controversial alleged conversations between Goswami and Dasgupta regarding various news events (and Republic’s coverage of them), including the Pulwama attack and the Balakot air strike in February 2019.
On 14 February 2019, a terrorist attack on a CRPF convoy near Pulwama led to the deaths of 40 military personnel. In alleged texts to Dasgupta on the day, Goswami first purportedly mentions that his channel was “20 min ahead on the biggest terrorist attack of the year in Kashmir”.
On 23 February 2019, three days before Indian Air Force conducted a retaliatory strike on a reported terrorist camp in Pakistan at Balakot, Goswami allegedly told Dasgupta that “something big will happen.”