Rajdeep Sardesai Off Air: Noted journalist and television news anchor Rajdeep Sardesai has reportedly been taken off air by his channel, India Today, for two weeks, following a tweet he wrote regarding a protestor’s death at the January 26 tractor rally.
As per Newslaundry, the channel has also deducted a month’s worth of salary alongside barring the senior journalist from broadcast on their platform. Sardesai, known as the host of the channel’s prime time show, had on the day of the farmers’ tractor rally reported on Twitter, “One person, 45-year-old Navneet killed allegedly in police firing at ITO. Farmers tell me: the ‘sacrifice’ will not go in vain.” The journalist, later retracting his tweet, quoted reports saying that the protestor’s death may have been caused by an overturned vehicle.
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.👇 pic.twitter.com/JnuU05psgR— Rajdeep Sardesai (@sardesairajdeep) January 26, 2021
Sardesai’s temporary takedown is perhaps a first for Indian media in recent times, where several journalists have been known to go scot-free despite multiple instances of incorrect reporting. So how must one view this milestone in broadcast media? Is it a positive turn of events, given how several of Sardesai’s journalism colleagues themselves have condemned the decay television news has undergone? Does it set a strong precedent for other news channels to follow suit when their anchors falter? Did the channel perhaps take a heavy-handed approach to Sardesai’s incorrect report, which he did later make sure to pull back?
Indian TV Media Under Scrutiny: Time For Hard Change?
Even though the consequences Sardesai is reportedly facing may seem to some as a bit of a hard stretch, does it send out a larger message? Especially at a time when mal-information, disinformation, and fake news is running high in the crosshairs of social media and broadcast media. Should anchors rush to break news like this on social media? Is the pressure of media deadlines leading to fewer checks? Anchors today are warring each other with underhanded snarks from their own studios.
The entire media ecosystem itself has come under the scanner for an alleged TRP scam. Additionally, individuals and organisations have filed lawsuits against media companies for inflamed and insensitive reporting. Could this be the reason why Sardesai’s channel took action against him? Was it a consequence of public pressure and social media trends (that demanded his arrest no less)? The channel alone knows.
Rajdeep Sardesai off air for his tweet, say reports. Is this a watershed moment for Indian media that, going forth, can expect an upsurge of ethical, fact-checked, and objective reporting?
But was taking any kind of action against a journalist as experienced as him – especially one now public to the entire Indian audience – a move much-needed for the overall health of television media? SheThePeople spoke to Editors Guild head Seema Mustafa last year, who said Indian television news in recent times was going through one of its lowest phases. 2020, when anchors openly broached individual privacy or reported on gender crimes irresponsibly, was one of the worst years for journalism, Mustafa said.
Does this, the event of a journalist who is doubtless facing the consequences of his actions, beckon new hope for television media or is it just a one-off incident? Will fellow news channels be inspired by this move to take cognisable steps when their anchors’ journalism is questionable? Is this a watershed moment for Indian media that, going forth, can expect an upsurge of ethical, fact-checked, and objective reporting? We will just have to wait and see.
Views expressed are the author’s own.