Miffed at the Delhi newsroom’s alleged apathy towards the ground reality in Kashmir, Naseer Ahmed, Srinagar-based assistant editor of IBN7, has resigned from the Hindi news channel. In his resignation letter, a copy of which Newslaundry has accessed, Ahmed wrote,
“I observed that television journalism in India has taken a u-turn and portrays unnecessary, biased and partial news reports. Nationalism to some level is fine but when an assistant professor or an ATM guard is being murdered in cold blood by government forces and one can’t report then, in my opinion, it’s no more journalism, so I have decided to call it a day.”
Newslaundry tried to contact IBN7 deputy managing editor, Sumit Awasthi, but to no avail. We did, however, get in touch with the channel’s consulting editor, Prabal Pratap Singh, who said the allegations are completely false. “We have already sent a legal notice to Rising Kashmir, and will also serve one to The Caravan,” said Singh, who alleged that Ahmed’s journalistic performance over the last one year was not up to the mark. “He would miss the daily editorial concalls (conference calls), and not respond to our emails. He missed out on many important developments.”
Singh went on to say there were numerous occasions when Ahmed was asked to improve his performance. “We did this orally, via email, telephone, but to no avail. Left with no other option, the HR asked him to explain his lack of performance, failing which disciplinary action was to be initiated against him. Following this, he sent his resignation citing the ATM guard story, which is completely false,” said Singh.
Talking to Newslaundry, Ahmed, who has worked in the electronic media for nearly two decades, of which 16 years were with Zee News, said, “The editorial bosses sitting in Delhi asked me to prepare a report on Hizbul commander Burhan Wani in which Burhan was to be shown with some young girls. The idea was to project him as a philanderer, which I refused.” He added that when he refused to produce this fabricated report, the channel bosses asked its Jammu reporter to do it.
Ahmed said he was put under tremendous pressure when English news channel India Today showed a sound bite of a Kashmiri boy claiming that Hurriyat leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani pays local youth for pelting stones at security forces. Newslaundry investigated this video and found that it was footage from 2008. “When I was asked to send the same report, I clearly refused to do that story and told them that is a six-year-old video,” Ahmed said.
According to Ahmed, this was not the first time that bosses sitting in Delhi have tried to change the narrative of what was unfolding in Kashmir, on IBN7. “I was shocked when the channel refused to air my story about a security guard working at an ATM being killed by CRPF (Central Reserve Police Force) in pellet gun fire.” He said he was asked to find an injured security personnel and do a story on that instead. “I always used to send my stories based on facts, but somehow or other the channel used to insert a terrorism angle.”
Because of distortion of facts by television news channels, Ahmed said there is a lot of anger among locals against journalists. “You ask any local journalists, they will say the same thing. Ask them to report from interiors of Kashmir and they will refuse. The locals gherao and question us why the channels show false news reports related to the Valley.” He said this is what prompted him to take a call. “I have been in this profession for 20 years. As a journalist, I have credibility. To save my credibility, I was left with no option but to resign.
Ahmed said that now the channel is running a smear campaign against him by saying that he was asked to leave for non-performance. “Even if this is true by any stretch of imagination, rules say that first Human Resource department issues a warning for non-performance. I ask them to show any such e-mail.”