Media Matters

‘Hardly new’, says former NDTV anchor Barkha Dutt after channel takes down Jay Shah story

The journalist claims that she left the network after being punished for taking a stand against news censorship.

Former NDTV anchor Barkha Dutt said in a Facebook post on Wednesday that the channel’s decision to take down a story related to Bharatiya Janata Party President Amit Shah’s son was “hardly new”, and claimed that she left the network because of censorship. Dutt made her comments a day after NDTV journalist Sreenivasan Jain issued a statement saying it was “deeply unfortunate” that the network had taken down his report on the business dealings of Shah’s son, Jay Shah.

In his statement, Jain had said that he was treating the taking down of his text story – ostensibly to be legally vetted – as a “distressing aberration”. Despite his position on the issue, he said he would continue working for NDTV. However, Dutt, in her post, insisted that this sort of decision had been taken before, and that her colleagues at the channel had been aware of this.

Dutt claimed that a February 2014 interview done by fellow journalist Nitin Gokhale with the outgoing Navy Chief had been taken down and that there were guests that journalists had been told not to invite to their shows. She wrote that she had been “given hell” for a story on Robert Vadra, the son-in-law of Congress President Sonia Gandhi, who has been accused of benefitting financially from his proximity to the Congress. That the story had not been taken down was only because doing so would draw more attention to it, Dutt alleged. Dutt also said that a “bread and butter” interview with Congress leader P Chidambaram was not aired, with the channel later claiming it was censoring it in national interest. ‘

“Already on the wrong side of the network for my argument over the Vadra story I protested this censorship,” she wrote. “I said while I worked at NDTV I could not criticise them in public but there was no way I could defend this strange axing either. Over the next two months , for the stand I took, I was clearly punished with a hostile newsroom environment that sought to push me out of any big news story that the top bosses were anchoring.”

In her post, Dutt claimed that she was offered a non-daily news arrangement with the channel following her protests but decided she would rather exit instead, and did so a month later.

At the time of her leaving, after two decades at the network, NDTV issued a statement saying “Barkha has requested that she would like to explore some new opportunities, pursue other interests and work on her own venture.” Dutt herself also posted about her departure at the time.

Now however, Dutt’s Facebook post suggests there was more to her departure. “I was punished for taking a stand and speaking my mind on news censorship. The fights I had applied to both BJP and Congress stories,” she wrote. “I took a stand on censorship and paid a price. So be it. But I don’t see ex colleagues doing that. Nor did they speak up earlier though all were aware of these facts. And I certainly don’t see NDTV as either victim or crusader.”

Scroll.in has written to NDTV co-founder Prannoy Roy and Editorial Director Sonia Singh regarding the allegations made by Dutt in her Facebook post. The post will be updated whenever a response is received.

We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in.
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