Days after two eminent journalists of a TV channel quit their jobs, the Congress party slammed the Narendra Modi government, accusing it of wanting to suppress ‘truth being spoken to power’. Congress spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala tweeted that censorship is the ‘New Normal’ in Modiji’s ‘New India’.
Within two days, ABP News' Managing Editor Milind Khandekar and anchor Punya Prasoon Bajpai have resigned from the channel and ABP's flagship show, 'Masterstroke' has reportedly been taken off air. Thereafter, Bajpai took to tweeting out the videos of his programme. Scroll.in reported that another journalist at the network, Abhisar Sharma, has gone on leave.
In one of its shows, anchored by Bajpai, ‘Masterstroke’ had covered Prime Minister Narendra Modi's interaction with a Chhattisgarh woman who claimed her agricultural income had doubled after she switched from paddy to 'sitafal' farming. Masterstroke had later interviewed the same woman, who claimed that officials from Delhi had 'tutored' her before her interaction with the Prime Minister to falsely claim that her income had doubled.
As the news spread widely on Twitter, Union Minister Rajyavardhan Rathore slammed the media organisation and questioned its journalistic ethics. Days later, viewers complained that they were facing difficulties in watching the programme because of 'disturbance and blackouts.' Scroll.in reported that Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman had also tweeted saying, “Oh, why, why this unfortunate journalism?”
Congress defended the journalists, tweeting a video showing ‘An Undeclared Emergency in New India’. The party’s social media communications head Divya Spandana said “Now that Milind Khandekar and Punya P Bajpai are out of ABP News, the channel might as well be renamed ABVP news.”
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal on Thursday alleged that the Modi government was behind the resignations of the journalists and that the Centre was killing independent media in the country. In a tweet, Kejriwal said: "Free media is life-line of democracy. But Modi government is hell-bent to kill independent media. The resignation of two eminent TV journalists from ABP News in two days is another proof. Media should rise now, otherwise it will be too late." Kejriwal’s party colleague Ashutosh, a former journalist himself, tweeted saying “Whatever has happened to our friends—Milind Khandekar and Punya Prasoon—is murder of democracy and free press. In protest I am keeping my profile black.”
Senior journalists, editors and other Twitter users expressed solidarity with Bajpai, Khandekar and Sharma. Senior editor Rajdeep Sardesai said “The channel and GOI has much to answer: muzzling the media will backfire.” NDTV Executive Editor Nidhi Razdan said, “ABP News needs to speak up about what happened. These have been testing times for many of us. How does the channel explain itself? The press during the Emergency seemed to have had far more courage. And why is the govt so afraid of questions?”
With IANS inputs.