Two journalists from ABP News, Managing Editor Milind Khandekar and Punya Prasun Bajpai had reportedly resigned days earlier, stirring debates on Twitter and leading the Opposition Congress to allege that the government of India was interfering in the media after both journalists had carried out a story that contradicted the government’s claim.
The journalists’ were particularly critical of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and even mentioned his name in their reports.
According to media reports, Managing Editor Milind Khandekar and primetime anchor Punya Prasun Bajpai tendered their resignations amid allegations of “pressure from the Centre” doing the rounds.
Senior journalist Abhisar Sharma also went “on leave”. These developments come days after Union Ministers such as Nirmala Sitharaman and Rajyavardhan Rathore tweeted against ABP News with the hashtag #UnfortunateJournalism, criticising a story that was critical of the government.
Now according to the latest information leaking out of the ABP newsroom, the top ABP bosses had given the journalists an option. Fall in line with the management diktat and submit a written undertaking not to criticize PM Narendra Modi and the BJP government at the Centre in future shows.
Says a source at ABP: The channel management was aware of the negative impact and widespread criticism of the media house, if the journalists were directly asked to quit and wanted to avoid it at all costs. Even the government didn’t want them to go immediately as the BJP government and Modi would automatically get mired into the controversy, with the Opposition parties having a field day.
As a face saving measure for all – the PM, the government, the channel management and the journalists, the duo – Bajpai and Sharma were asked to submit a written undertaking stating that they would stick to the management stand and not indulge in any ‘adventure journalism’.
The management wanted them (Bajpai and Sharma) to give a water-tight written undertaking in the form of an ‘additional contract’ says a source, which would have legally bound both the TV anchors to dance to the management’s tunes. If they were ready to do so, they could continue with their jobs, they were told. But they turned down the offer and continued with their tirade against the Center.
When the journos refused to sign the undertaking, Managing Editor Milind Khandekar was asked to sack Bajpai the next day. Instead Khandekar chose to quit himself.
Bajpai resigned a day later in protest, against what he called ‘acute management interference in editorial matters’. Sharma was asked to proceed on a 15-day leave and was taken off-air.
Last month, the channel elicited strong comments from the government for a story on Masterstroke in the wake of a video interaction Prime Minister Narendra Modi held on June 20 with beneficiaries of various government programmes.
A participant from Chhattisgarh, a farmer, Chandramani Kaushik, told Modi on the show said that her income had doubled after she switched from cultivating paddy to growing custard apples.
Sources said the channel was under great pressure to reign in the “errant” journos.
Asked how exactly the channel was being pressurized, the source at ABP said, “Sponsors were pulling out, and not just government sponsors. There are private companies that stopped advertising on ABP,” reports The Quint.