Thursday, January 29, 2015

A former IBN7 journalist claims he was sacked because he stood up for journalistic integrity

Pankaj Srivastava, Associate Editor at IBN7, Reliance-owned Network 18’s flagship Hindi news channel, would have completed seven years with the organisation this March. However, according to Srivastava, a text message that he sent to his Deputy Managing Editor, Sumit Awasthi, on January 21 cost him dearly. In less than three hours of him sending the text message, he was summoned to the office of the organisation’s Human Resources head, where Awasthi too was present, and handed a dismissal letter.

So what was the content of the text message that incensed the management of IBN7 so much that an employee, who had been with the organisation for so long, was fired immediately?
Newslaundry has examined the message (originally in Hindi) and this is what it roughly translates to:
It seems that we have joined the campaign to defeat Aam Aadmi Party. This is unfair. Many people believe that this is happening because of Umesh Upadhyay (who is the brother of the Bhartiya Janta Party’s Delhi state unit President). This is against my journalistic principles.
As per Srivastava, Awasthi approached him after he received the text message and advised him to resign and find a new job. “I refused to resign, and insisted that I would rather be sacked,” said Srivastava. Srivastava also claimed that he had been protesting against what he thought was lopsided coverage of the Delhi Elections for a while.
Speaking to Newslaundry, Srivastava said that the channel has an informal editorial ban on covering the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP). “When Reliance took over last year, a townhall presided over by Rohit Bansal and Umesh Upadhyay was organised, where it was made very clear that we shouldn’t air any live speeches of any AAP representative.” Bansal is an executive at Reliance India Limited while Upadhyay is President, News at Network 18.
Apart from the unofficial boycott of AAP, Srivastava alleged that Reliance and Narendra Modi were holy cows in the newsroom and there was a blanket ban on doing any negative stories against the two. “Considering that Network 18 is one of the biggest media networks in the country, I was concerned that journalistic ethics were being so blatantly compromised and hence objected,” said Srivastava.
Awasthi was not available for comment while Upadhayay told Newslaundry that he was busy in a meeting and couldn’t comment.
The story will be updated if and when they choose to respond.
Meanwhile, Srivastava now plans to take legal recourse. “It is unfair that no reason was given to me whatsoever for my termination; I will approach the court,” he elaborated. It must be noted here that broadcast journalists are not covered by the Working Journalists Act, 1955.