Two journalists from ABP News, Managing Editor Milind Khandekar and Punya Prasun Bajpai have reportedly resigned, stirring debates on Twitter and leading 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.
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
Bajpai, in his show, Masterstroke, ran a video which showed Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi interacting with beneficiaries of various government programmes held on 20 June. One of the participants from Chattisgarh shared that her income had doubled after she switched from cultivating paddy to growing custard apples.
However, the show reported that the woman had been told to make a false claim. The report was picked up by Congress in a video tweet which said, “Evidence is surfacing that ABP News is seeing journalists resign and benched due to their involvement in stories criticising the Central Govt. Watch how in the age of free information, India under Modiji seems to be anything but free.”
Evidence is surfacing that ABP News is seeing journalists resign and benched due to their involvement in stories criticising the Central Govt. Watch how in the age of free information, India under Modiji seems to be anything but free. pic.twitter.com/r9L7xUL2A7
— Congress (@INCIndia) August 2, 2018
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal also tweeted, using the hashtag #FreeMediaDiedInIndia and criticising the ruling party for ‘killing’ independent media.
Uptil now, ABP news has not commented on the resignations.
Exchange4media quoted Avinash Pandey, the ABP News chief operating officer, who said, “Khandekar has been instrumental in shaping and strengthening the editorial structure at ANN during this illustrious association. His service has been indeed much valuable to the organization. It has been an honor working with a wonderful colleague like him all these past years. We wish him boundless success in all his future endeavors.”
Many Union ministers heavily criticised Bajpai’s show. Rajyavardhan Rathore, the minister of state for information and broadcasting and defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman tweeted:
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
Alleged reports have surfaced that since the airing of the show, BJP leaders have expressed hesitancy to appear on the channel. Scroll reported that a few twitter users had flagged the fact that they had been unable to access ABP News at the time Masterstroke was being aired.