At the recent “solidarity march” to protest against the arrest of Kanhaiya Kumar, students of the Jawaharlal Nehru University offered red roses to a Zee News reporter, asking “the organisation to not spread lies”. Three students who resigned from the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad in their letter talked about why people should “circulate #SHUTDOWNZEENEWS” and stated that the channel had been “biased” in its coverage of the issue.
Now, one of the channel’s own employees, Vishwa Deepak, producer on the output desk, has resigned citing Zee News’ coverage on JNU. Vishwa Deepak in his resignation letter to Zee News anchor and editor Rohit Sardana has made troubling allegations about the newsroom practices at the channel. He has stated that since 2014, there has been a “communalisation” of newsrooms but that the situation is more alarming in Zee News. Further, he has claimed that he has had objections to the way the channel has played up the JNU issue and that Zee News with its reporting has abetted a riot-like situation.
He has also asked whether it is a mere coincidence that the Delhi Police has mentioned Zee News’ report in the First Information Report against Kanhaiya Kumar.
In a phone conversation with Newslaundry, Vishwa Deepak elaborated on his reasons for the resignation. “Media bias was always there, but it is now happening at a big level, with the state machinery. When I joined the channel, their line was not very clear. After 2014, once the government was formed, it became more and more clear,” he said. Vishwa Deepak said that at a level the “Modi mania” and “Modi wave” stories the channel was doing could be justified initially because Modi had won with a great mandate and is a popular leader. “But are we now going to start defending the ABVP and people like OP Sharma?”
Newslaundry got in touch with Sardana to learn more about the circumstances under which Vishwa Deep resigned. He told us that he was not aware of the resignation and that he has been travelling over the past three days. Newslaundry also got in touch with Zee News Editor Sudhir Chaudhary. “On a daily basis people leave and people are being recruited, it is a normal affair. When people leave, they write such nasty letters. This is the organisation’s internal matter,” Chaudhary said, adding that he has not yet read Vishwa Deep’s letter. He also said that his line is very clear on the events that occurred on February 9 at JNU. “I was there when the Parliament attack happened and I saw everything happening in front of my eyes. If people are going to say Afzal Guru should not be hanged, we will oppose it. Our channel only showed what was happening there, whatever we have shown is 100 per cent authentic. How far will you push freedom of speech?”
Vishwa Deep’s resignation comes at a time when questions are being raised over the Delhi Police’s FIR that cites and depends on Zee News heavily. In fact, the Delhi police filed the FIR against the JNU students not based on their constable’s eye-witness account, but a full two days later, after Zee News played up the issue. The video clip aired by Zee News is part of the FIR. Many clips of the incident doing the rounds are now being examined for authenticity.
At the time of this report being uploaded, Zee News was asking its viewers on its ticker: “Kya hind mahasagar mein uthegi vishwayuddha ki Tsunami?” and telling its viewers that “Bharat se 3000 km dur teesra vishwayuddha!”