After News Nation consulting editor Deepak Chaurasia fumbled on air while anchoring a show, the channel allegedly removed a senior editor and a production staffer over the incident, sources told Newslaundry. Chaurasia, who issued an apology, hasn’t been on air since December 10 and telecasted his last show on December 9.
Chaurasia was widely criticised over the way he anchored ‘Desh Ki Behas’, his primetime show, on the helicopter crash in which CDS General Bipin Rawat, his wife and 11 others were killed on December 8 .
“The channel has let go of two people associated with that show after the incident…One is Neeraj Kumar and the other is Vivek Bhatnagar. Neeraj was with the PCR (production control room) on December 9 and Bhatnagar was the main producer of Chaurasia’s show,” a journalist working with the channel told Newslaundry on the condition of anonymity.
“Neeraj Kumar and Vivek Bhatnagar were asked to not come to work on the day of the incident. Two to three days later, the management gave orders to let go of them.”
News Nation editor-in-chief Manoj Garola did not respond to requests for comment by Newslaundry.
However, a senior staffer at the channel told Newslaundry that an investigation committee was formed to look into the matter and action was taken on the committee’s advice. However, staffers told Newslaundry that Kumar and Bhatnagar were asked not to report for duty immediately after the incident. Another staffer close to Kumar and Bhatnagar said no committee was formed because the two employees were neither allowed to present their case nor issued a show cause notice.
Was action taken against Chaurasia? The above-quoted staffer said, “He too hasn’t come to the office since that day and also not doing his prime time show. Although nothing is clear about this right now.”
Kumar was a senior editor while Bhatnagar worked in the production department. Kumar had been working with News Nation for the last eight years and was earlier associated with India News.
Chaurasia joined News Nation in April 2019. Bhatnagar began working for the channel six months later and became the producer of Chaurasia’s show.
Accountability for the lapse
“The channel formed an internal committee after this incident. The committee has looked into the whole incident and action is being taken according to that,” a senior staffer told Newslaundry. “Committee ne producer ya doosre logon ki zimmedaari tay ki. Baaki itna hi aap jaaniye (Committee made the producer and others accountable. We are telling you only this much).”
Asked if action has been taken against Chaurasia too, besides Kumar and Bhatnagar, he said, “Hum koi comment nahin kar sakte hain. Itna kaafi hai aapke liye (we can’t comment. This much is enough for you).” He did not comment on who all were part of the committee and disconnected the call.
But a staffer close to Kumar and Bhatnagar claimed that “it is a lie that any committee was formed”. “No such thing happened. Had it been formed then both the employees (Kumar and Bhatnagar) would have been called to present their case. They must have been spoken to. No such thing happened here.”
“Both of them were asked to not come to the office from the very next day of the incident. The order of their removal came when they were not coming to the office. The question of forming a committee and appearing before it doesn’t come up here. The truth is that this committee game is being played to save Chaurasia and both the employees have been made sacrificial lambs.”
There is also no clarity on Chaurasia resuming his duties at the channel. Most of the channel’s staffers are tight-lipped on the incident while some told Newslaundry that he might return to work by December 29.
According to a , “After being off air for 15 days, he (Chaurasia) can soon make a comeback through his show.”
On December 9, when the bodies of CDS Gen Rawat, his wife and other officers were brought to Delhi, News Nation’s primetime face Deepak Chaurasia spoke – or, should we say, struggled to speak – for a few minutes before abruptly being taken off air by the channel. Just three minutes into the show, Chaurasia was removed and other anchors took over.
When the video surfaced online, Twitter was abuzz with speculation about what made Chaurasia ill at ease and why he was taken off air.
The conjecture ranged from the anchor being unwell to intoxicated.
When Chaurasia first joined the conversation, as announced by the reporter on screen, there were a few seconds of dead air. Neither Chaurasia nor the reporter spoke. When he finally began speaking, he seemed confused as to who or what he was talking about. He made errors like addressing General Bipin Rawat as VP Singh, the late Congress veteran and eighth prime minister of the country, before his video disappeared from the screen.
In the brief video, the anchor also seemed to slur his words and struggle to form a coherent sentence, even covering his face with his hands at one point. In another slip of tongue, he said, “we lost a journalist” instead of “general”.
There was blank silence for 30 seconds straight after Chaurasia was taken off air, after which a voiceover anchor started talking, without addressing what had happened.
Hunches on social media aside, Newslaundry tried to find out from News Nation insiders what exactly happened with Chaurasia.
NL Hindi spoke to News Nation employees who confirmed that Chaurasia was, in fact, intoxicated. Allegedly, he was in Indore to attend a family wedding. Later, images from the wedding, with him dancing, that had been uploaded on his social media also
Newslaundry reached out to Chaurasia but he has not responded to the calls.
However, in a Facebook post, the anchor issued an apology and said he was unaware of the side effects of an “overdose of painkillers”. He said whatever is being said about the video is not the “complete truth”. “The truth is that there was a wedding in my house and because of excessive dancing during the baaraat, an old wound in the knee began hurting,” he wrote, adding that he did not want to avoid the broadcast considering the theme of the show. He said he took a painkiller in order to ensure a proper telecast.
“I have been part of journalism for 25 years so I don't need to learn media ethics from anyone.”
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