Kartik Kakar

By Tanishka Sodhi

“Whenever he speaks, he speaks venom,” said a member of the Abu Dhabi chapter of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of India (ICAI), referring to Sudhir Chaudhary﹘the editor-in-chief and CEO of Zee News and Wion﹘being invited to an event set to be hosted by the institute on November 25 and 26.

Thirty members of the ICAI’s Abu Dhabi chapter had written to the organisation’s committee members on Sunday, requesting them to drop Sudhir from the panel of speakers. In the letter and a meeting that followed, they accused Sudhir of “manufacturing and spreading fake news, Islamophobia and communal hatred, doctoring tapes,” and more.

However, according to the members, their request to disinvite Sudhir was declined as the committee said it was too late and they would not be able to find a replacement. Sudhir’s name is also still there on the ICAI’s website.

UAE princess Hend Al Qassimi had earlier shared a screenshot of the letter from ICAI members requesting to drop Sudhir, and said that the anchor had been dropped from the panel. She asked the ICAI on Twitter why they were bringing an “intolerant terrorist”, “Islamophobe and hater” to the UAE.

However, an ICAI member, on the condition of anonymity, said, “We tried to convince the president and vice-president to drop his name as we do not want to lower the dignity of our institute. But they said that they couldn’t drop him as it was too last-minute, and also because they had political pressure to retain him.”

“They assured us that he won’t be given much publicity and will be advertised at a low level. They also told us that they will tell him not to speak about politics or anything controversial,” he said.

The UAE princess did not respond to a query about the ICAI’s decision to still proceed with the list of speakers, including Sudhir, despite the letter.

The 30 ICAI members, who wrote to the committee, stated that as they are a “professional body of high repute and goodwill in a foreign country,” they had a responsibility to offer a high standard of professional services, a cohesive atmosphere among its members, and respect the local laws and culture. The letter also cited Sudhir’s arrest in 2012 in an extortion case as an example of his “criminal misdeeds”. He was released on bail two weeks later. In 2018, industrialist Naveen Jindal and his company withdrew the FIR, saying that the legal spat was the result of a “miscommunication”.

Organised by the Abu Dhabi chapter of the ICAI, the 33rd Annual International Seminar will be held at a hotel in Abu Dhabi. The theme for the year is ‘building resilience – emerging stronger,’ and it is described as “a spectacular event for professional and business networking, knowledge sharing on financial topics, ideas on innovation and integration, motivation and words of wisdom and a lot more”.

Besides Sudhir, the panel includes UAE minister of state for foreign trade Dr Thani Bin Ahmed Al Zeyoudi, ICAI president Nihar N Jambusaria, HDFC vice chairman and CEO Keki Mistry, Manappuram Finance MD and CEO V P Nandakumar , director and film producer Shekhar Kapur, IPS officer and author Amit Lodha, Avenue Supermarkets chairman Ramesh Damani, and paralympics medalist Bhavina Patel.

Journalists from India have been invited to speak at the event before. Managing Editor of ET NOW, Nikunj Dalmia, was invited last year.

Sudhir’s name caught the media’s attention only after UAE princess Hend Al Qassimi put out a number of tweets, sharing the ICAI letter, and speaking about Sudhir “spewing venom against Muslims for leading anti-citizenship protests” and running “fake stories, targeting Muslim students and women leading the protests”.

The UAE princess told Newslaundry that she didn’t know who Sudhir was until she came to know of his views in the public domain.

“He is toxic, disrespectful and sounds like a Nazi. I grew up with Hindus; I have never heard them speak like this,” she said. “My country is one of peace and tolerance, but we don’t accept criminals indicted in financial projects and (who) publicly speak and orchestrate open Islamophobia in India.”

Another member of the ICAI said that the Zee News anchor has “said a lot of derogatory things about minority committees in India”. “He has no moral authority to come here, even if he says different things here…The management committee has assured that he won’t say anything related to religion. But even if he says the right things here, we know his views from his telecasts.”

“Most of his news is not authentic. It is fake or a form of propaganda,” said a fourth member of ICAI. “We expressed our displeasure as many members have also raised the issue regarding how he is not related to our profession.”

The theme for this year’s seminar is ‘building resilience – emerging stronger’.

Citing examples of Sudhir’s coverage, they spoke about how he covered the Kathua rape case and “defended” the accused and claimed the case was “propaganda scripted in a foreign country to defend India”. He was slapped with a legal notice by Deepika Singh Rajawat, the counsel for the family of the eight-year-old victim.

They said that he was “responsible” for branding the Tablighi Jamaat members as superspreaders of Covid-19 and ran multiple shows for several days to “build an opinion against Muslims,” including a “hate-filled report” about a medical team being attacked in UP which was dismissed as false by the police.

They also referred to a controversial graphic broadcast during Sudhir’s show that alleged Muslims are “waging jihad on Hindus in India” through several ways such as “land jihad, economic jihad, population jihad, history jihad and love jihad”. They also spoke about Sudhir’s coverage of the anti-CAA protests, doctored tapes in the JNU case, and other instances of sharing old images as news.

This story first appeared on newslaundry.com