India Today Puts Rajdeep Sardesai Off Air for "Violating Social Media Guidelines"
By: Sashwata Saha
In a first for India’s super competitive TV news industry, India Today has set a precedent by penalising its star anchor and consulting editor Rajdeep Sardesai for the violation of social media guidelines laid down by the group. Not only has Sardesai been taken off-air for two weeks but also had one month’s salary deducted.
While Sardesai, himself, has not commented on the issue, well-placed sources in the channel have briefed The Wire and Exchange 4 Media on these developments.
On January 26, as protesting farmers took to the streets of Delhi, Sardesai had tweeted, “One person, 45-year-old Navneet killed allegedly in police firing at ITO. Farmers tell me: the ‘sacrifice’ will not go in vain.” He then went on to explain on live television how cops shot the young farmer and why this would become “a massive movement” as farmers from across the country would seek ‘Justice for Navreet’.
Multiple media outlets who were on the ground reporting have said that while the Delhi Police had said that the farmer had died in an accident, other protesters claimed that the farmer was shot. The police even released a video in which a tractor can be seen going out of control and overturning. However, speculation remains whether the farmer was hit by a tear gas canister which the police had been firing and lost control of the vehicle.
Within minutes of the police’s video upload, Sardesai retracted his previous statement saying, “While the farm protestors claim that the deceased Navneet Singh was shot at by Delhi police while on a tractor, this video clearly shows that the tractor overturned while trying to break the police barricades. The farm protestors’ allegations don’t stand. Post mortem awaited.” He also made a similar statement to this effect on his TV show.
However, several BJP leaders still demanded that an FIR be filed against Sardesai or that he be fired for spreading “fake news”. In a tweet, Kapil Mishra accused him of inciting attacks on the police and demanded his arrest while Amit Malviya called for his sacking.
On January 26, farmers protesting against the three farm laws took out a tractor rally led by several farmers’ leaders including Rakesh Tikait, Darshan Pal and Gurnam Singh Chaduni. Clashes broke out between the police and protesters during the tractor march, and the Delhi Police claimed that more than 300 police personnel were injured. The police later booked at least 37 farmer leaders in an FIR in connection with the violence during the tractor parade, as two farmers’ unions reportedly withdrew from the agitation because of the events that unfolded on Republic Day.
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