The news about ABP’s editor Milind Khandekar and anchor Punya Prasun Bajpai’s resignation was a surprise for everyone. However, the story behind their decision to resign has sent shockwaves down the media fraternity.

Bajpai’s column revealed how freedom of the press is under threat

In his column written for an online portal, Bajpai has announced that the group’s proprietor-cum-editor-in-chief had asked him during their July 14 meeting to not to mention Prime Minister Modi anywhere during his show ‘Masterstroke.’ The show focuses on government policies and its impact on ground zero. Thus, Bajpai claims that the team found it difficult not to utter Modi’s name while doing a fact check on the policies, schemes, and claims made by the prime minister.

The channel’s ratings began to rise after airing Masterstroke’s episodes based on how a woman farmer from Chhattisgarh was forced to say that her income had doubled during her interaction with Modi via video conferencing on June 20. The most explosive episode was probably the one based on how the Jharkhand Government was forcing farmers to sell their land for Adani group’s power plant project in Godda. Other parts, including the one based on the non-functional skill development centers, did not go down well with the government. That’s when the news anchor directly got a call from certain bureaucrat from the Information and Broadcast Ministry suggesting that anything can happen to the channel now.

According to the senior news anchor, the caller identified himself as a part of government’s media monitoring cell. This call was the beginning of trouble for the channel. From the next day onward, the channel’s broadcast started getting disrupted between 9 PM and 10 PM, right when Masterstroke is telecasted. Besides this, the spokespersons from the BJP and RSS stopped appearing in the debates and other shows of ABP News. Even the advertisers were also threatened and forced to withdraw their ads from the channel.

For fifteen days, the channel’s signals kept on experiencing disturbance during the prime time slot. Surprisingly, after the channel’s management accepted Punya Prasun’s resignation, the technical issues stopped, and all the advertisements came back to the newsgroup.

Another anchor from the channel, Abhishar Sharma is also said to be sent on leave. Sources suggest, he named Narendra Modi in several reports in spite of a warning from the channel’s management.

Further, the senior journalist has claimed in his column that BJP chief Amit Shah had asked BJP’s social media team to target him. He also claims that Shah talked about teaching a lesson to him and ABP news while interacting with certain journalists at the parliament’s central hall.

The anchor had also attracted a lot of wrath in December 2013 when his “Krantikari, bahut krantikari” behind the scene video captured during his interview with Arvind Kejriwal went viral on social media.

Karan Thapar’s show on India Today was boycotted in a similar manner

Punya Prasun Bajpai’s column may remind everyone about Karan Thapar’s recent revelations reflecting how BJP ministers and spokespersons boycotted his show ‘To The Point,’ resulting in non-renewal of his contract with the India Today group.

The use of bureaucrats for threatening journalists is undoubtedly questionable

The news anchor has clearly stated that the team working under Broadcast Engineering Corporation India Limited and a bureaucrat (ADG) from the Information and Broadcasting Ministry were issuing official diktats. It’s apparent that he has considerable evidence to back every point mentioned in his column.

Using bureaucrats to threaten is not a new phenomenon for the state of Maharashtra at least. Recently, several RTI activists have recently complained about receiving threat calls from bureaucrats, including officers sitting at the Mantralaya.

Anyway, coming back to the main issue, criticism is significant for the smooth functioning of democracy. Modi is often called authoritarian, and by attempting to curb the freedom of the press, his government has proved yet again that critics are right in saying so.

As usual, the media fraternity has failed to show their solidarity towards their colleagues. Some jobless ones are laughing as well.

Further, Read More:

Interesting trivia! Did you know? Modi did not run away from Karan Thapar’s interview!

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