I did my duty as an Indian: Shyam Meera Singh on his removal from Aaj Tak

Despite the sudden termination notice due to Twitter comments against PM Modi, the journalist does not blame the India Today Group, but the government that forced ITG to take such a step

AAJ TAKImage Courtesy:freepresskashmir.news

“I am terminated from my channel Aaj Tak (India Today Group) for writing these two tweets on Prime Minister Modi,” tweeted journalist Shyam Meera Singh on July 19, 2021 after his removal for allegedly violating the media house’s social media and code of conduct policies.

On July 18, Singh received a letter from the ITG Digital Vanchha Garg that talked about how he was unable to follow the guidelines he signed and accepted at the time of his employment.

“You are well versed with ITG’s Social Media and Code of Conduct policies which specifically advise us to use social media for news that has been published or aired by the system and not for personal views. Besides being alerted on other breaches, you have received at least two formal warnings. Yet, the attached recent tweets show repeat transgressions,” said the letter sent by HR Business Partner Vanchha Garg.

The two tweets published by Singh are as follows:

Despite the sudden firing, Singh accepted the action in good humour, even sporting the words “Journalist, terminated from Aaj Tak” in his social media bio. Further, he dedicated the letter to his belated friend and renowned photojournalist Danish Siddiqui.

If speaking against Modi equal speaking against India, then throw me in jail

Speaking to SabrangIndia, Singh said that he was well aware about the guidelines that barred personal views on social media. The guidelines demanded views that spoke in line with the content and voice of the organisation. Regardless, he decided to speak his mind. When asked about his view of such restrictions, he compared them to a bird who has wings but risks having them cut off if it tries to fly. Still, he did not blame the ITG for his termination.

“I consider my fight a fight of the company as well. I don’t blame anybody or any company. Instead, I question the system that has forced my termination on such grounds. That system is the Prime Minister, his government and his IT cell,” said Singh.

When asked whether he considered his removal, a violation of his fundamental rights, Singh said, “Definitely! While preparing for IAS, I studied freedom of speech. The Article makes any law that infringes on free speech null and void, even laws of a private company. Even if I sign a document saying otherwise, the real culprit is the maker of such a policy, not me.” 

As for reasonable restrictions, he said that if criticising Modi was the same as threatening the security of the State or any similar clause, then we will gladly accept further legal proceedings. On his own part however, he is not keen on taking up legal action.

“I was well aware of what company I was working for. But I did this to put on record what is happening and how our democratic rights are being handled. If a journalist cannot criticise his own Prime Minister, then you can imagine the state of citizens in that country,” he said.

Incidentally, this is what Modi had to say about government criticism two years ago.

Singh also emphasised that he expressed his views, not as a journalist but as a citizen who saw his family and kin suffer during the Covid-19 health crisis.

“I watched my own family members die during Covid-19. At this time, I feel every citizen should criticise the government as I have done. Even the company should have supported me but it didn’t. Anyway, I have done my duty as an Indian citizen,” he said.

Singh said he considered the recent incident an attack on the rights of his company as well.

Free speech in corporate media

A few months ago, India Today’s Consulting Editor Rajdeep Sardesai also suffered a similar fate. He was taken off-air between January and February for two weeks for publishing a tweet on the farmer’s protest. His tweet that spoke of the alleged killing of farmer Navneet at ITO during the January 26 Farmers’ Parade also cost him a month’s salary.

Later, he even posted a video stating that “farm protesters’ allegations don’t stand.” Despite this, BJP leader Amit Malviya and many other right-wingers on social media called for Sardesai’s firing. Malviya even called him a “repeat offender.”

Do Indians truly have free speech?

Article 19 of the Constitution grants freedom of speech and expression to all Indian citizens. But Singh said that though people have free speech, the issue is the topic of the speech.

“There is free speech in India. People have a right to criticise Dalits, insult or attack IAS officers, abuse Rahul Gandhi or other political leaders but they do not have the right to demand their rights,” he said.


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