“My parents spent their hard-earned money to educate me and I chose this profession. You know why? Because I wanted to show the truth,” Rakshit Singh told an estimated 5,000 people assembled for a Kisan Mahapanchayat in Meerut on February 27. Then, he took out his mic emblazoned with the ABP News logo and tossed it. He was resigning as a senior correspondent with the Hindi news channel right then and there, Rakshit declared.
The reason, Rakshit claimed, was that ABP News didn’t want him to “show the truth”. Specifically, he added, the TV news channel had asked him to show there were far fewer people at the Kisan Mahapanchayat than there actually were.
A video of Rakshit talking about his time in journalism and announcing his resignation soon went on social media.
The mahapanchayat in Meerut was organised by the Rashtriya Lok Dal, whose vice president, Jayant Chaudhary, was present when Rakhsit spoke out against the media house where he had worked since 2014. “I am not being allowed to show the truth,” he declared. “So, I am quitting this job.”
Rakshit has been a journalist for 15 years and worked with the newspaper Dainik Bhaskar before joining ABP News. He comes from Bijnor and was tasked with covering western Uttar Pradesh at ABP News.
Speaking to Newslaundry, Rakshit said it was his frustration with “the overall environment in news media” and not just ABP News that led him to quit publicly and dramatically. “Nobody would want to hire me after the mahapanchayat incident”, he added, but he would continue to pursue journalism as his profession.
Rakhsit wouldn’t explain to Newslaundry why he had chosen a political stage to announce his resignation. But in a that the journalist later posted on Twitter, he said, “To those asking if I aspire to be a leader or an MLA, my response is since I came for the coverage here, I chose this platform.”
Rakshit, however, hasn’t handed over a formal resignation to his employer yet.
Responding to its correspondent’s dramatic resignation and his allegations, ABP News said in a statement on Saturday, “We at ABP Network believe in the highest degree of ethical journalism and have strict policies in place whereby our reporters have the mandate to ensure and maintain due impartiality, independence, fairness and strict adherence and compliance to the law of land, journalism ethics and editorial principles. Fact-based reporting has always been central to our editorial policy. We are shocked and saddened to see that one of our reporters has misused our brand and has made false remarks regarding the network.”
Newslaundry spoke with several current and former ABP News employees who have worked with Rakshit Singh. Most of them praised his work and appeared to confirm his allegations. They all spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals.
A former senior editor at the Hindi news channel said Rakshit would often complain to him about his stories being dropped. “He had lost count of the number of dropped stories,” he said. “Had he chosen to do stories in a certain way then they would not have been dropped.”
He recalled a recent conversation with Rakshit about his situation at ABP News. “I am merely doing a job now, not journalism,” the former editor said Rakshit told him.
Asked about Rakhsit’s performance as a reporter, the former editor replied, “He was good with newsbreaks and stories on economic policies.”
He also covered the last Assembly elections in Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh, the violence triggered by the conviction of Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh in 2017, and the recent disaster in Uttarakhand’s Chamoli.
Another former colleague of Rakshit told Newslaundry, “While stories being dropped is usual in a newsroom, there’s a pattern at ABP News after a new editor took over the assignment desk lately.”
He added, “Rakshit was upset with the coverage of the farmer protests by the channel,” he said. Another trigger for Rakshit’s outburst, he claimed, was a by the channel’s lead anchor Sumit Awasthi where he tried to enumerate the advantages of the hike in fuel prices.
The former reporter said he himself cottoned onto the news channel’s pro-establishment slant when a story of his on the protests against the citizenship law was nixed in 2019. It has been the same with the farmer protests, he added.
In 2018, ABP News saw the exit of veteran anchors Abhisar Sharma and Punya Prasoon Bajpai as also managing editor Milind Khandekar, apparently the ruling establishment glowingly.
Some of Rakhsit’s ABP News colleagues, however, criticised him on social media.
Newslaundry contacted Sumit Awasthi, vice president, news and production at ABP News, for a comment on Rakhsit’s resignation and allegations. He directed us to the TV channel’s marketing head, Mehraj Dube, who refused to respond to specific queries about Rakshit’s allegations regarding stories being buried and the editorial brief to show a thinner crowd at the Meerut Kisan Mahapanchayat.
Anurag Singh is a freelance journalist based in Lucknow.