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.
New Delhi: Little did Anuj Shukla, a senior journalist associated with a news channel in the National Capital Region, realise that a routine television debate will end up putting him behind bars. Shukla has been a part of several news organisations in different capacities throughout his career.
According to details available on his Facebook page, he is a former correspondent at Zee News English, former bureau head at India Voice, former input editor at News1 India, executive editor at MiCircles, input head at TV24 and currently managing editor, Nation Live.
Originally from Kanpur, he did his Masters in Mass Communication from Guru Jambeshwar University, Hisar in Haryana and was seemingly a supporter of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Chowkidar campaign which took off in the run-up to the recently concluded Lok Sabha Election.
On 16 March, he had tweeted: “Patrakaar ka toh kaam hi hai chowkidaari karna, desh ke khatir, shashakt sarkar aur Narendra Modi ke khatir ye bhi sahi. Haan #Maibhichowkidaar.” (It's a journalist's job to be a guard. For the country, for governance and for Narendra Modi, I will also be a guard). In a Facebook post from 2017, he is seen interviewing Yogi Adityanath, who was not yet the chief minister. “Delhi journalists say one can’t go into Yogi’s Adityanath’s stronghold of Gorakhpur and ask him tricky questions. But I went to his home and asked him all sorts of questions, all of which Mahant Adiyanath answered with patience.”
“Anuj is a sweetheart as a person,” said his close friend Inder Yadav, a journalist associated with TV24. “When I came to know about his arrest, I couldn't believe it. He always had an objective approach toward politics.” Was Anuj critical of Yogi Adityanath or the BJP-RSS? “Not at all, he is not anti-government and is a good reporter. The way he has been arrested is quite wrong and an attack on the fourth estate and on democracy.”
Even as media associations and editors protested against the arrest of the journalists, a police press note released late evening on 8 June said: "Nation Live News Channel being operated from Phase 3, B-53 Sector 65, Noida had organised a panel discussion channel over the allegations over Uttar Pradesh chief minister by a woman. The channel aired the video without verification. This has infuriated workers of a particular party. A case in this regard has been registered by sub-inspector Dharmendra Singh under sections of 505 (1) (Whoever makes, publishes or circulates any statement, rumour or report — with intent to cause, or which is likely to cause, against the state or state tranquillity), 505 (2), 501 (Printing or engraving matter known to be defamatory) and 153 (Promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language etc.) of Indian Penal Code. The said channel was operating in the name of 'Network 10' without obtaining the required license. On a complaint by Assistant Director, District Information Office, a case has been registered against ‘Nation Live’ under sections 419 (Punishment for cheating by personation), 420 (Cheating and dishonestly inducing delivery of property), 467 (Forgery of valuable security, will, etc.), 468 (Forgery for purpose of cheating) and 471 (Using as genuine a forged [document or electronic record]) of IPC. Channel Head Eshika Singh [Managing Director Eshika Singh] and [Managing ] Editor Anuj Shukla have been arrested.”
Police have also registered a case against the channel saying that it was registered in one name and operating with another name. Channel head Ajay Shah (and not 'Eshika Singh' as named by Uttar Police) clarified the issue in a video. “The name of the channel is Network 10 and the proposed name is Nation Live and required documents have been submitted to the Information and Broadcasting Ministry,” said Shah. "Since Nation Live is our future brand, we publicise it in this name. We also promote it on our channel Network 10, for which license has been given and the channel has all the necessary documents."
Shah also clarified the channel’s approach towards the BJP claiming the channel had published advertisements from the BJP as well as other political parties during elections.
“We didn't make any mistake but only exposed the lady who tried to bring a bad name to Yogiji,' Shah said in the video. The on-air discussion shared on Nation Live’s Facebook page was captioned: “CM Yogi par aarop lagane wali mahila ka Nation Live karega pardafash." (The lady making allegations on CM Yogi exposed by Nation Live).
But the Chief Minister's Office started to pressurise the channel after which “we deleted the content from our YouTube platform”, said Ajay. The channel also apologised to the CMO saying "Agar aapko truti lag rahi hai toh hm iske liye kshamaprarthi hain. Hum iski purnavriti nahi karenge." (We apologise if you consider it as objectionable. We will not repeat it in future)
Shah also raised concerns about the way Anuj and Eshika were picked up.
"On June 7, a police intelligence team went to Anuj's house and told him that the SSP wants to meet him," said Shah in the video. "After half an hour, his phone was switched off. We contacted the SSP and CMO but we could not gather any information about Anuj. On the same day, around 5.30 pm we learnt from our sources in the CMO that we should send our Managing Director Eshika Singh for discussion to SSP office and then Anuj would be handed over to us. I talked to the SSP Vaibhav Krishna, Greater Noida, who asked me to send our MD to his office. As I was in Gorakhpur, I asked Eshika to go and meet the SSP. As Eshika was coming out of her residential society, a team of 10-12 people picked her up as if she were a terrorist. Her phone too was switched off thereafter." Ajay also claimed to have briefed Prime Minister’s media advisor Anil Baluni and the BJP on the issue.
On the arrest, Yadav argued that if the woman had said something objectionable about the chief minister in Lucknow, it is she who should have been arrested and Yogi Adityanath or anyone else should have put out a clarification. “If Anuj organised a panel discussion on his channel and the women have alleged something about the CM, then it’s not a fault of Anuj’s journalism,” said Inder adding that Anuj had evidence on the woman who was making allegations and the channel did a story based on the woman. “Anuj was not cooking any allegations on his own.”
Devendra Singh, SHO, Greater Noida, Phase 3 police station had said, "We have arrested three people in this case, the third one being the anchor Anshul Kaushik who was arrested today. The investigation is ongoing and I can only speak about the facts and not reveal how are we proceeding in the case. It is a matter of ongoing investigation." On whether the channel had already been on their radar and panel discussion was just a trigger for a planned action, he refused to comment saying, "That is confidential information."
The author is a New Delhi-based freelance writer and a member of 101Reporters.
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Updated Date: Jun 12, 2019 11:54:45 IST