Senior journalist and news anchor Rajdeep Sardesai has been taken off-air for a couple weeks with a month's salary deducted by the India Today group for posting a tweet claiming a farmer was shot dead in police firing during the tractor rally on January 26.
Sardesai, a consulting editor with the India Today Group, in his tweet had mentioned, 'One person, 45-year-old Navneet killed allegedly in police firing at ITO. Farmers tell me: the 'sacrifice' will not go in vain.” The Delhi Police, however, clarified that the farmer was killed in an accident when his tractor toppled and also released a video.
On January 26, farmers protesting against the three farm laws took out a tractor rally led by farmers' leaders including Rakesh Tikait, Darshan Pal, and Gurnam Singh Chaduni. The police and protestors clashed during the tractor march, and Delhi Police claimed that over 300 police personnel were injured. The police booked about 37 farmer leaders in an FIR regarding the violence taken place during the tractor parade, as two farmers' union reportedly withdrew from the agitation due to the events that unravelled on Republic Day. The Delhi Police filed a total for 22 FIRs in connection with the January 26 rally and have detained about 200 people so far. Several videos and CCTV footage are being inspected to identify those who were involved in the violence and strict action will be taken against them, claimed by Delhi Police Commissioner S.N. Shrivastava.
Sardesai deleted the misinformed tweet and mentioned on air that the farmer had been killed in an accident. In his retracted statement he mentioned, '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.”
Furthermore, the journalist also lauded the efforts taken by the police and stated they displayed great restraint at Red Fort and ITO and said 'no evidence of bullets fired.” However, several BJP leaders demanded that an FIR be registered against Sardesai or he be fired for spreading 'fake news.'
Earlier on January 23, Sardesai had also accused the President of India of unveiling the wrong portrait of Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose on his birth anniversary. After the official Twitter handle of the Rashtrapati Bhavan had posted the image of portrait on the 125th birth anniversary of the freedom fighter, several journalists, including Sardesai, and opposition leaders had alleged that the portrait was of the actor Prosenjit Chatterjee, who enacted the role of Bose in a movie. However, it was later revealed that the portrait was painted based on a photograph of the freedom fighter, that was provided by his grand-nephew, Chandra Kumar Bose. Rajdeep Sardesai was one of the journalist to spread the fake news on Twitter.
India Today has taken unprecedented steps to penalise the journalist for allegedly violating social media policies of the media house several times. Reports claim that hours after India Today suspended their Consulting Editor from going on-air for two weeks, Sardesai decided to submit his resignation. Sources say that the suspension and deduction of salary was a big humiliation to him, although there has been no official confirmation from either India Today or Rajdeep Sardesai, deeming this to be a speculation.
This is the first time in an Indian broadcast news industry where a national news channel has decided to take on such measures to penalize violations of media house policies. The question arises that whether such a step is being taken out of political pressure, or as a precedent for fellow journalists to adhere to the policies and ethics of journalism in media hosues.
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