The bloodbath in one of India’s most prominent Hindi news channels has continued with more prominent names either resigning or being asked not to report to work.
In a latest development, journalist Punya Prasun Bajpai, the anchor of the channel’s flagship show Masterstroke has reportedly resigned. Bajpai on Thursday bid farewell to his colleagues. According to those present in the office, Bajpai met as many of his colleagues as possible before leaving the building.
“The whole atmosphere was very emotional and sad,” said one journalist to Janta Ka Reporter. Another journalist said, “He wished everyone here well. Then the entire office escorted him to the main door to say good bye.”
When contacted for his reactions, Bajpai refused to accept the call from Janta Ka Reporter and instead sent an auto reply, “can i call you later?” This story will be updated once Bajpai reacts on his reported resignation.
Bajpai’s reported resignation follows the stunning resignation by ABP’s editorial head and managing editor, Milind Khandekar, who announced his departure from the channel on Wednesday night. His short tweet had read, “14 years & 8 days later it’s time to move on. Today was my last day as Managing Editor @abpnewstv . Thank you for being part of my journey so far.”
Meanwhile, there are also reports that the channel’s anchor, Abhisar Sharma, too has been asked to go on leave for 15 days as the management told him not to report to work during this period. Sharma has been one of the fiercest critics of the government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. He’s been highlighting the shortcomings of the Modi government through his reportage and video blogs.
The development at ABP News has evoked angry reactions from political parties. Manish Tewari of the Congress, who headed the Information and Broadcasting Ministry in the Manmohan Singh government, tweeted, ” If this has happened under Government pressure- MOST UNFORTUNATE -Owners of ABP News must explain. Media Freedom imperilled.”
Meanwhile, another journalist at the ABP, Rajan Singh, too has been asked to leave the organisation. The reason behind his sacking is not clear yet. Meanwhile, Rajnish Ahuja has been asked to take charge of the channel’s editorials. He has been working as the Managing Editor-Input under Khandekar.
Critics have attributed the developments inside the ABP to the channel’s recent coverage that had angered the Centre’s Narendra Modi government.
Not too long ago, Union Information and Broadcasting Minister Rajyawardhgan Singh Rathore had reacted angrily to the channel’s coverage on Chhattisgarh suggesting that the PM’s interaction with local women was choreographed.
One Chandramani Kaushik from Chhattisgarh had told Modi in her interaction with the prime minister that her agricultural income had doubled after she switched from cultivating paddy to (‘sitafal’) custard apple farming. However, a report broadcast by Masterstroke on ABP News had later interviewed the same woman, who claimed that officials from Delhi had arrived in Kanker district of Chhattisgarh to tutor her before her interaction with PM Modi, to falsely claim about doubling of income.
The channel had defended its coverage. Days later, many viewers had claimed that they were facing difficulties in watching the programme alleging a deliberate intervention by the government.