On 11 September, the owner of Hindustan Times, Shobhana Bhartia, issued a statement announcing the abrupt exit of the newspaper’s editor-in-chief, Bobby Ghosh.
In her statement, Bhartia said, “I am deeply disappointed to share the news that Bobby Ghosh will be returning to New York, for personal reasons.
“Bobby has only been with HT Digital Streams Ltd. for 14 months, but in that time he has engineered a dramatic transformation of our various news products. This is reflected not only in our traffic numbers, but in the sheer ambition of our journalism. Under his leadership, HT Newsroom has pursued bold ideas and has addressed some of the most pressing issues of our time. We have come to be recognized as the place for journalistic innovation and enterprise.”
The sudden announcement by Bhartia on Ghosh leaving the paper left many shocked given that he had only joined the newspaper replacing Sanjoy Narayanan as recently as in 2016. In his brief stint, he was able to launch several key initiatives including ‘Let’s talk about troll’ and ‘Hate Tracker.’
Both initiatives appeared to have angered the Centre’s Narendra Modi government as it perceived the campaigns being aimed at the BJP supporters.
Now The Wire website has revealed that Bhartia had held a closed door meeting with Modi before announcing the exit of Ghosh. The website added that in the private meeting between Modi and Bhartia, ‘objections raised by top-level government and Bharatiya Janata Party officials to editorial decisions taken during Ghosh’s tenure.’
The HT sources even told the website that in the run-up to that meeting, Bhartia allegedly faced sustained objections from senior ministers to aspects of HT’s political coverage, to Ghosh’s own views expressed on social media, and to the fact that he did not hold Indian citizenship. One minister in particular had even hinted at raising the issue with Modi.
Both Bhartia and Nripendra Misra, Principal Secretary to Prime Minister, have denied the allegations that Ghosh was asked to leave under pressure from Modi.