Case over 'defamatory content' against Yogi Adityanath: Arrested Nation Live MD Eshika Singh had red-flagged telecast

Editor's note: Five people, including four journalists, were arrested by the Uttar Pradesh Police for posting/discussing/reporting an alleged salacious story about Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath. When Hema Srivastava made a declaration of her love for the chief minister outside his residence complete with a notarised love letter, the media predictably tripped over each other to report it. But the administration's singling out three journalists has caused concern among the media fraternity. Firstpost profiles the three journalists — freelance journalist Prashant Kanojia, Nation Live's managing editor Anuj Shukla and managing director Eshika Singh.

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New Delhi: “Dear Sir, Eshikaji is an unmarried woman and her missing from home till late night is not appropriate. Thus, I request you to take necessary action in the matter.” According to Ajay Shah, channel head of Nation Live, that was the text he had sent prime minister’s media adviser Anil Baluni on 7 June, the evening the channel’s managing director Eshika Singh, 26, was taken into custody. The police didn't officially announce her arrest until late the next day.

On 6 June at noon, the channel aired a panel discussion featuring a woman who claimed to be Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath’s lover. The next morning, the channel managing editor Anuj Shukla was picked up by police from his home. According to a Facebook video he posted, Ajay said he had asked Eshika to meet the SSP in his office for an inquiry. He was told by his sources in the CMO that this would help secure his release.

 Case over defamatory content against Yogi Adityanath: Arrested Nation Live MD Eshika Singh had red-flagged telecast

Eshika Singh. Image courtesy: Eshika Singh's Facebook page

“I myself talked to the SSP, Greater Noida. He asked me to send the channel’s MD to his office,” he said. But as she was leaving home at around 6 pm to meet the SSP, Eshika was picked up by 10-12 police personnel, according to her elder brother Raj, a businessman.

Born and brought up in Patna, Eshika completed her schooling from Krishna Niketan Convent School in Patna and did her Bachelor in Journalism and Mass Communication (BJMC) from Magadh University. She was preparing for admission in a post-graduation course in mass communication. Eshika is not only the managing director of the channel but also one of its founders along with her brother Raj, who is on the channel’s board of directors.

Though Eshika had not spoken to her brother about the telecast, he later learnt that she had flagged the content to Anuj Shukla. “I met her in jail on 11 June,” said Raj. “She said she had texted the editor Anuj, ‘Ye kya chala raha hai, kaise chala raha hai (What are you running on the channel)?'" According to Raj, Anuj had apparently replied: “Ma’am, don’t worry. Ye mera headache hai, mai content daal raha hun. Koi problem nahi hogi. Aap tension na lo (Ma’am, don’t worry. This is my headache, I am uploading the content. Don’t worry, there won’t be any problem)."

Raj and Ajay Shah said they are in constant touch with senior BJP and government officials. “Kuch upper-level par bhi baatchit chal rahi hai lekin output nahi mil raha hai (We are speaking with higher authorities but we are not getting any results),” said Raj.

Considering the channel’s license is now under the scanner, Raj firmly believes that the action against their channel was not because of the panel discussion but due to some personal enmity. This belief was echoed by a colleague of Eshika’s, who, on condition of anonymity, said some adviser to the chief minister probably orchestrated the action against the channel to settle his own differences.

Since the channel’s office has been seized, there is uncertainty over the future of around 100 people working there. Several employees are sceptical about their salaries and appraisals but feel this is not the appropriate time to take up the issue with the management.

Some who spoke to the media say Eshika didn’t interfere in editorial matters, and it was Anuj who took calls regarding their content. Aman, video editor at the channel who was on duty when the show was aired, says neither Eshika nor Anuj were at work at that time.

After Eshika’s arrest, the anchor of the show, Anshul Kaushik, was arrested on 11 June. Ajay Shah has also been named in the same case. “We have not arrested Ajay Shah as he is on run,” said Devendra Singh, SHO, Greater Noida Police Station, Phase 3.

The lower court in Greater Noida had rejected Eshika and Anuj’s bail pleas on Tuesday, after which Raj had filed a bail plea in the Sessions Court. Krishna Kumar Singh, her lawyer, said that the bail plea is scheduled for hearing during the second half of Friday.

(The author is a Delhi-based freelance writer and a member of 101Reporters.)

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Updated Date: Jun 13, 2019 21:46:21 IST