Thwarted by two press clubs, Vivek Agnihotri will now hold a press conference at the hotel
In a week marked by conversations about press freedom, communal violence in Jodhpur, Modi’s visit to Europe and a worrying power crisis across the country, social media was abuzz with something quite different.
Who at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club had agreed to host director Vivek Agnihotri at the club’s premises in Delhi – before the club itself callously canceled the event? Did the Press Club agree to host Agnihotri afterwards before also withdrawing? And who is Agnihotri’s Zee Studios contact who organized the event in the first place?
According to Agnihotri himself, everything will be revealed on May 5.
Confused? Let us explain.
Agnihotri tweeted a video on May 3 claiming that an “unusual, shocking and extremely undemocratic thing” had happened.
“I was the victim of a hate campaign,” he said, “and my free speech was banned by the free speech watchdogs – the media.”
Agnihotri said a few days earlier that the Global Kashmiri Pandit Diaspora had informed him that the Foreign Correspondents’ Club was “very keen” to host him for a press conference on his latest film, The Kashmir Files. The event was reportedly set for May 5 at 7 p.m.
An executive from Zee Studios, the film’s distributor, “flew to Delhi and made all the arrangements”, he said. But then “very powerful media” allegedly “objected” to the press conference, and it was called off.
Stating that “his conscience does not permit this attack on freedom of expression”, Agnihotri said he was instead holding a press conference at the Press Club of India “in the interests of India, democracy, freedom of expression and truth”.
The chairman of the Foreign Correspondents’ Club, Manish Gupta, said Newslaundry that the club’s South Asia section had decided to cancel a “promotional event”. He declined to comment further.
But there was another twist.
Following Agnihotri’s tweet about the event currently taking place at the Press Club, this venerable institution itself tweeted saying that it was “not facilitating any event on May 5th by any individual or organization.”
Chander Shekhar Luthra, the club’s joint secretary, said Newslaundry“We haven’t received any calls to reserve the club’s premises, either in the name of Vivek Agnihotri or the Kashmir Files.”
A member of the Press Club must facilitate the reservation of the premises for a non-member. Luthra said: ‘Either Vivek or someone representing him should have filled in a form… As far as the Press Club of India is concerned, there was no booking for Mr Agnihotri.’
He added: “Just by tweeting, you can’t book space… You can’t just say, ‘I’ll do an open day at the Press Club of India.’ This will amount to intrusion… Our position is very clear – there is no reservation as such by anyone on behalf of Mr. Agnihotri for his cause.
Agnihotri said on Twitter that the Press Club was “lying between its teeth”.
Again thwarted, Agnihotri has just announced that he would hold a press conference on May 5 at the Le Méridien hotel.
When Newslaundry reached out to Agnihotri with questions, he said, “You can join me on my PC on May 5 at 3:30 p.m. at Le Meridien and ask me all your questions.”
When we asked if Zee Studios made the reservation with Press Club on his behalf, he replied, “Will answer all questions with evidence on the 5th.”
Update: This report has been updated with Agnihotri’s tweet on Press Club.