Times Now, the self-proclaimed nation’s channel, has for long flown the flag for those fighting to protect freedom of expression in India. Or at least that’s what the channel would have its viewers believe.
But, the channel, a part of Times Television Network, on Friday issued a bizarre set of guidelines to its reporters directing them to follow a new rules on social media activities.
A source in the channel told Janta Ka Reporter that she was contacted by her immediate boss soon after everyone received an email from a top authority in the HR department.
The email warned the reporters to only retweet content appearing on ‘Times Network and Times Group.’ The journalists working for the group were also told to not retweet their own published stories unless they have been tweeted by the channel’s official handles.
The email said, “Journalists should only retweet stories and opinion appearing on the official twitter handle/FB/ Other Social Media pages of the various channels and properties of TIMES NETWORK and TIMES GROUP…Journalists should only retweet the official handle posts to publicise their stories or new information aligned to their stories/ features. Journalists must not use their private social media handles to promote or retweet their own story or those of colleagues unless the official handle/FB site has done so.”
A Times Now journalist told Janta Ka Reporter wishing anonymity, “We were called by our immediate boss this evening. He informed us that the new policy had been rolled out and was in force with immediate effect. Can’t believe that the channel that claims to fight to protect everyone else’s freedom of expression now has effectively gagged its own reporters.”
This follows similar rules rolled out by Times Group for its print journalists in 2014 when staff were expected to surrender the control of their social media accounts to their employer.
The guidelines had said, “If you are planning to maintain two user accounts, then the company expects that all content related to your primary role at BCCL should be solely posted on your Company User Account, though it can be re-tweeted/shared from your Personal User Account.”
While the company had allowed the print journalists to keep a personal account, they were advised not to do so.
The advisory had said, “The Company would prefer that users maintain a single account, to keep a genuine and honest approach to the consumer at large, and frankly, because it’s easier to manage. But it’s up to you to decide what you prefer. If you prefer to keep separate accounts, please inform your brand representative of your personal accounts’ usernames. But it will be in YOUR interest to keep One User Account.”