ABP Anchor & Managing Editor Allegedly Asked To Leave After Doing Fact-Check Of PM’s Mann Ki Baat
Recently, ABP news has been garnering a lot of attention because of the resignation of their two top editors. The first resignation was that of the ABP News Network Managing Editor Milind Khandekar, followed by fellow journalist Punya Prasun Bajpai. The series of events happened apparently after Punya Prasun Bajpai show Master Stroke did a fact check on claims made in PM Modi’s Mann Ki Baat.
ABP न्यूज़ की रिपोर्ट पर सरकार और बीजेपी दोनों ने सवाल उठाए हैं , हमारा जवाब इस वीडियो में है
Posted by Milind Khandekar on Tuesday, July 10, 2018
The two resignations are being seen as an attempt to curb freedom of speech and an example of a media house bowing down to the ruling government to get their affection.
According to The Wire, on July 1, ABP’s management in an unanticipated move announced the resignation of its editor-in-chief, Milind Khandekar. Just days after, the anchor of popular Hindi prime time show, ‘Master Stroke’, Prasoon Bajpai was also allegedly asked to resign. On July 2, Prasoon confirmed his resignation to Scroll but did not give more details on the matter.
14 years & 8 days later it’s time to move on. Today was my last day as Managing Editor @abpnewstv . Thank you for being part of my journey so far.
— Milind Khandekar (@milindkhandekar) August 1, 2018
In fact, these two prominent journalists were asked to resign by the channel or did they quit on their own is still in the dark. The sources from ABP news have told The Logical Indian that till now no official statement has been issued from the company, but there are rumours that a meeting to brief the current situation will be held today.
According to reports, Avinash Pandey, the ABP News chief operating officer told Exchange4media “Khandekar has been instrumental in shaping and strengthening the editorial structure at ANN during this important association. His service has been indeed much valuable to the organisation. It has been an honour working with a wonderful colleague like him all these past years. We wish him boundless success for all his future endeavours.”
Further commenting on his departure, Khandekar said, “14 years is a long time and I remember this incredible journey very fondly. Overall, it has been a fulfilling and a remarkable experience.”
The Wire has reported that another ABP news anchor Abhisar Sharma was taken off the air for 15 days. This was done after he allegedly stood against the instructions of the management to not criticise the Modi Government on his show. According to The Logical Indian sources, there are speculations about his resignation as well.
These waves of activity that took place in ABP news in a very short span of time is being considered as the repercussions of the reporting done by these former ABP employees. Reportedly, the company’s decision to pull Abhisar off the air came after he tried questioning Prime Minister Modi for his latest speech in Lucknow, where PM said that the law and order situation in Uttar Pradesh has improved. The anchor juxtaposed this with the two brutal murders that took place in the state on the same day, as reported by The Wire.
It is been also alleged that as soon as Abhisar mentioned Prime Minister’s name on the show, CEO of ABP News Network Atideb Sarkar insisted on taking the show off the air.
After this, some sources in the ABP newsroom told the Wire that the editor-in-chief, Khandekar got a reprimand from Sarkar for not immediately ending the show, to which the latter said that it could not be done as only five minutes of the bulletin had passed. However, after the bulletin, Abhisar and the show producer was told not to criticise the Modi Government again on any of their bulletins. This led to Abhisar’s termination from the show for the next 15 days and also the slot for his bulletin was given to another anchor Chitra Tripathi. Allegedly this decision had come directly from Sarkar.
Masterstroke by Prasun Bajpai
Last month, Prasun Bajpai on his prime-time show did a fact check of Chhattisgarh farmer claims of getting doubled income(which can be read here). On June 20, PM in his monthly show, Mann Ki Baat did a video interaction with beneficiaries of various government programmes. During the video conversation, a woman farmer from Chhattisgarh, Chandramani Kaushik, told PM Modi that her income had doubled after she switched from cultivating paddy to growing custard apples. PM specifically asks her if her income has doubled and she replies in affirmative. Television anchor, Prasun Bajpai from the medium of his show ‘Masterstroke’ claimed that the women had been tutored to make false claims. He sent reporters on the ground to find out the truth.
PM जी अपनी मन की बात सुनाते हैं यह तो सभी जानते थे। आज यह मालूम पड़ रहा है कि वह सिर्फ अपने ही मन की बात सुनना भी चाहते हैं । pic.twitter.com/dEqvklqtRR
— Rahul Gandhi (@RahulGandhi) July 9, 2018
While the opposition criticised the government for using lies to shape public opinion, the Bharatiya Janata Party criticised the program. Rajyavardhan Rathore, the minister of state for information and broadcasting tweeted saying that media houses have taken up the agenda of deriding the Prime Minister which was followed by defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman.
Some media houses have unapologetically aligned themselves to the agenda of deriding PM @narendramodi 's efforts by all means. Despicable! The real story of Chhattisgarh's farmer women who rubbished the claims of a section of media #UnfortunateJournalism https://t.co/4E8S9mwRDZ
— Rajyavardhan Rathore (@Ra_THORe) July 9, 2018
It was clear from the first instance that the conversation was about sitaphal cultivation, wasn’t it? The lady farmer Chandramani also picks up the box of sitaphal to show it to the @PMOIndia . Oh, why, why this #UnfortunateJournalism ? https://t.co/JzuNAUkxHo
— Nirmala Sitharaman (@nsitharaman) July 9, 2018
Soon after this, BJP leader began to boycott the channel, told the ABP sources to the Scroll.
According to The Wire, last week, BJP president Amit Shah told a group of journalists in parliament house that he planned to “teach ABP News, a lesson”.
A senior journalist from ABP on the condition of anonymity told the Scroll that, “Things began to change after the first week of July. We persisted with whatever we were doing. For us, the news is news. But we are living through polarised times, where whatever you do is seen as pro-Modi, anti-Modi.”
Over the last few weeks, a lot of people on social media have complained about the disruption in the telecast of Bajpai’s nightly show, Masterstroke.
Didn't believe earlier when some friends told me that every day at 9 PM, the telecast of Masterstroke by @ppbajpai at @abpnewstv gets disturbed. Witnessed it today by myself. @TataSky do you have any answer. pic.twitter.com/XfPOYos2zK
— Kumar Anshuman (@anshumanscribe) July 30, 2018
— Mukesh Sharma (@advmickey) July 30, 2018
Apparently, these series of events did not go well with the channel, ABP sources also confirmed it to The Wire that the channel has been deliberately blocking the telecast of Bajpai’s nightly ‘Master Stroke’ show from various DTH platforms so as not to offend the government.
Bajpai himself tweeted about the blocking of the telecast saying this is an attempt to silence the freedom of speech.
आप “मास्टरस्ट्रोक “ के स्क्रीन को ब्लैक करोगे..
हम उसे “ब्लैक बोर्ड” मान कर सच लिख देगें…
( मिलते है 9 बजे )
— punya prasun bajpai (@ppbajpai) July 23, 2018
भूख से मौत पर ध्यान नहीं
बेरोज़गारी पर ध्यान नहीं
किसानों की ख़ुदकुशी पर ध्यान नहीं
साफ़ पानी/हवा पर ध्यान नहीं
ध्यान सिर्फ़ “मास्टरस्ट्रोक” के वक़्त सिग्नल ग़ायब करने पर…
— punya prasun bajpai (@ppbajpai) July 26, 2018
According to the speculations from the ABP employees, Bajpai was asked to resign after the pressure from the Modi government. According to The Wire, Milind Khandekar’s exit from the channel was also triggered after the story of Chhattisgarh farmer.