Journalist Shyam Meera Singh took to Twitter today to share that he was terminated by Aaj Tak reportedly for tweeting about prime minister Narendra Modi and describing him as a “shameless PM”.
Dated July 18, the termination letter posted by Singh had screenshots of two tweets. The letter, sent by India Today Group Digital's HR business partner Vanchha Garg, cited the India Today Group's policies on social media and code of conduct "which specifically advise to use social media for news that has been published or aired by the system and not for personal views".
Noting that Singh had already received "two warnings", the letter said that since he was "unable to follow the guidelines" he had "signed and accepted" at the time of his employment, the company was "unable to continue" his services.
The two tweets cited were posted by Singh on July 17.
However, Singh told Newslaundry that he never received any “formal warnings”. “There used to be oral meetings, which had around 90 employees, discussing the social media guidelines. But I was never personally issued any warnings: neither in oral nor in written.”
Singh added that his tweets are not reflective of his politics. "Calling Modi shameless doesn't show if I am supportive of any left-leaning parties," he said. "Because of the kind of work that Modi has done in the past few years, I called him shameless. It is not slang or an abusive word."
Singh, who has been associated with Aaj Tak for the last seven months, pointed out that his Twitter bio says his views are "strictly personal". He also said he did not receive phone calls or emails prior to the termination letter.
“This was not shocking for me," he said. "...Not only a journalist, but anyone, be it an IAS officer or any channel’s editor who writes anything true or anything that goes against this regime, will have to bear its consequences.”
However, he said he doesn't blame Aaj Tak for his termination, but the government. “My complaint is not with the channel, but with the government. I blame it on them because it could not create a safe environment for journalists who could question them and call them 'shameless'. Most of these mainstream media channels are crushed by the structure...I don't think that my termination is the fault of any single person, not even of the Group’s head.”
He concluded, "Whatever I have written, I take full responsibility. And if this invites my termination, I am ready to pay for that.”
Newslaundry contacted Vanccha Garg, HR business partner of the India Today Group Digital and the signatory to Singh's termination letter. She said she was not authorised to speak to the media and told us to email the channel's communication team.
Newslaundry emailed Sakshi Kohli, head of corporate communications at the channel. This report will be updated if we receive a response.
India Today Group's corporate communications desk sent Newslaundry an official response to our queries. Here is the response in full:
Thank you for reaching out to the India Today Group. Please find below a response to your queries:
Yes, this is an official email from the HR department of the India Today Group. The employee continues to violate the company’s policies by not removing his association with our company from his social media handles and by sharing confidential internal emails between employer and employee.
The reason for termination is a repeat violation of the social media policy of the Group on two accounts (and this is clearly mentioned in the letter):
The India Today Group’s Social Media and Code of Conduct policies specifically advises the use of social media for news that has been published or aired in our system. This is to ensure that a stringent verification process is followed. Our policy states:
Your handle can ONLY be used to post content or promotion that belongs to the Group and has been used in print, digital or on air and retweet that which is put on the Group’s own handles.
As per our policy, all employees are expected to keep our news ecosystem healthy and abuse-free.
Our policy is in the public domain.
As a market leader, it is our responsibility to keep our news and social media platforms safe for people who want to have constructive conversations within the realm of dignity, civility, and decency.