Irani was annoyed at being asked for a byte in Amethi yesterday.
If you spent some time on Twitter last night, there’s a strong chance you saw the viral video of union minister Smriti Irani ticking off a journalist – one Vipin Yadav.
“I will call the owner of your paper,” she said, “and tell them no journalist has the right to insult the people.”
A day later, a stringer – but it wasn’t Yadav – with Dainik Bhaskar lost his job over the exchange.
So who is Yadav? Why did Irani tick him off, and what is his connection to Bhaskar? Yadav told Newslaundry he’s a stringer with the media house, but Dainik Bhaskar said he’s not.
Here’s what we found.
Irani had arrived at Krishna Nagar Chauraha in Amethi from the neighbouring constituency of Salon. “She was welcomed by BJP workers and had tea and samosa from a stall there,” said a journalist who had been present there at the time. When she got up to leave, mediapersons asked her for quotes since they’d been “waiting for over two hours”.
The journalist said Irani “refused, saying she had already spoken to the media in Salon”.
“This is when Yadav said, ‘Aap Salon pe bole thi, abhi aap Amethi ke Jagdishpur Vidhan Sabha skhetra me hai toh yha bhi do sabd bol dijiye’,” the journalist said. (You had spoken in Salon and now that you are in Amethi's Jagdishpur Vidhan Sabha constituency, say a few words here too.)
The video showed Irani getting irked, while the journalist was off-screen.
“Salon constituency comes under my Lok Sabha constituency…Don't insult it,” the minister said.
When pressed further for a quote, she said, “I am urging you with love. If you further insult the people, I will call the owner of your paper and tell them no journalist has the right to insult the people.”
Yadav later told Newslaundry there had been no specific question in his mind at the time. “We were waiting for her to speak, then we would have asked questions.”
This video clip went viral, with the Congress party tweeting it as well. Dainik Bhaskar distanced itself from the controversy, tweeting that Yadav was not their employee or even their stringer. It also said it has “no permanent journalist” in Amethi.
Smriti Irani then took to Twitter too, saying the reporter “turned out to be FAKE”.
Was the journalist “fake”? Was he an employee or stringer with Bhaskar?
Here’s where it gets confusing.
Yadav told Newslaundry he was “hired by Dainik Bhaskar as a stringer but I do not have any official documents”. He said he works as a cameraperson alongside a reporter named Rashid Hussain, who is Dainik Bhaskar’s stringer in Amethi. Hussain was with Yadav during the interaction with Irani on Friday.
Hussain told Newslaundry that both he and Yadav have been hired as stringers by Dainik Bhaskar. Hussain has a mic ID as proof of his connection to the organisation.
Hussain and Yadav said they jointly worked on stories for Dainik Bhaskar’s websites over the last two months on issues like crime, politics and social issues. Hussain is listed as the reporter on these stories; Yadav’s name does not appear.
Vinod Srivastava, the bureau chief of Dainik Bhaskar in Amethi, told Newslaundry that Hussain is indeed their stringer in Gauriganj tehsil.
But he said, “Vipin Yadav is not at all associated with Dainik Bhaskar.”
Yadav, like many stringers across India, is unable to offer paperwork that says otherwise.
Additionally, Hussain – and not Yadav – was a member of a company WhatsApp group called “Bhaskar Vedio News”. Hussain told Newslaundry he was removed from the group, without any explanation, at 2.09 am today, after Yadav’s video with Irani went viral.
He then got a message from Srivastava asking him to “hand over” his mic ID.
He also told Newslaundry his report on Friday’s events – headlined “Chai pe Amethi ke vikas par charcha, media se baat karne ke liye kiya inkaar” – was not published in Dainik Bhaskar. Loosely translated, this says, “Discussed the development in Amethi over a cup of tea, refused to speak to media.”
Srivastava did not comment on the report but said he did ask Hussain to return the mic ID since “it was being misused by someone else”.
“When we found Yadav was using the mic ID given to Hussain, we took it back,” he said.
Hussain sent Newslaundry a photo of the handover.
Hussain also told Newslaundry he has “received no money” for any of the reports he’s filed for Dainik Bhaskar.
At least three journalists in Amethi told Newslaundry most stringers “at the district and tehsil level” in Uttar Pradesh don’t get paid for their work.
Suryadhan Dwivedi, a journalist and member of the Akhil Bhartiya Patrakar Association, said, “This is the harsh reality of journalism in these parts of the country. Organisations just give you a mic ID and ask you to work. Nobody gets any money for the work.”
While Newslaundry could not confirm the exact nature of their engagement, stringers often get paid for the ads they bring in to media organisations and not necessarily their stories. Read our report on what this journalist’s death tells us about the state of rural reporters.