NEW DELHI: India Today has taken senior anchor and consulting editor Rajdeep Sardesai off the air for two weeks citing his on-air claim and tweets on Delhi Police shooting dead a farmer during the January 26 tractor rally in the national capital.
The channel has also deducted a month’s salary from the high profile anchor.
This is a first time in Indian television industry whose reporters and anchors have often rushed to air with stories or news breaks that subsequently turn out to be fake or even fabricated, that a journalist of his stature been punished by his employer for trying to win the race. The development is apparently prompted by pressure from the ruling BJP leaders who had demanded that an FIR be filed against Sardesai or he be fired for spreading “fake news”.
Sardesai has not made comment on it so far.
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Sardesai had, in a Tweet, said: “One person, 45-year-old Navneet killed allegedly in police firing at ITO. Farmers tell me: the ‘sacrifice’ will not go in vain.”
Clashes broke out between the police and protesters during a tractor rally on Tuesday, and Delhi Police has claimed that 394 police personnel were injured and that one farmer died in an accident. The other farmers, however, maintained that he was shot. The police today issued lookout notice against several union leaders. Two farmers’ unions have already withdrawn from the agitation because of the events.
The police said the farmer had died when his tractor overturned. Delhi Police later released a video in which a tractor can be seen going out of control and overturning.
After the video was released, Sardesai retracted his statement and said, “While the farm protestors claim that the deceased Navneet Singh was shot at by Delhi police while on a tractor, this video clearly shows that the tractor overturned while trying to break the police barricades. The farm protestors’ allegations don’t stand. Post mortem awaited.”
He also tweeted in appreciation of the police, saying they showed “great restraint” at Red Fort and ITO.
After his tweet was written, Sardesai in his live coverage at 5:47 pm on Tuesday for India Today said: “What we do know is that while the farm protesters that we met insist that the person who died named Navneet Singh was shot at, but the police has provided us with a video that shows very clearly that the tractor overturned.”
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