Developments at INX took a serious turn when Information and Broadcasting Minister P R Dasmunsi on Friday issued a statement that he had been apprised of the serious allegations, including source of channel funding for INX, and that he had referred the matter to the concerned desk of the Finance Ministry to ascertain the facts through
their investigation wing.
On Friday, February 1, a delegation of senior electronic media journalists and news editors of NewsX channel called Dasmunsi and explained about the injustice and the shocking treatment being meted out to them by the security staff and other persons, and later on they were sacked.
In a statement, the Information and Broadcasting Minister said, “"Keeping in view the independence and autonomy of the media, neither the Government nor the Ministry ever interferes and shall not intervene in the internal affairs or administration of any media house or channel. But the manner in which the eminent editors have been treated and the rights of media personnel have been reportedly infringed upon is really a matter of great concern for free and fair journalism in the country. Minister has been apprised of the serious allegations, including source of channel funding which Minister is not competent to react, and accordingly, has referred the matter to the concerned desk of the Finance Ministry to ascertain the facts through their investigation wing.”
The Minister also appealed to all media channels that whenever any media personnel was engaged on some contract, their contractual terms should be valued and honoured, including the financial clauses. “Otherwise, hire and fire mechanism shall not provide honour and confidence to the engaged media personnel in the country, wherever they may be,” Dasmunsi said.
Despite repeated attempts by exchange4media, Peter Mukerjea, Chief Strategy Officer of INX Media, could not be contacted for his comments on the Minister’s statement.
Meanwhile, on January 31 Avirook Sen, Executive Editor, INX News, was allegedly sacked without any prior notice and reason. Following the incident, others like Narendra Nag, Executive Producer, and Rajesh Sundaram, Head of Domestic News, also resigned.
When contacted, Sen said, “I am challenging my dismissal legally. But, what is most shocking is how INX treats senior journalists. Yesterday's (January 31) incident is
unprecedented in the history of Indian journalism.”
In his resignation letter to Vynsley Fernandes, COO of the news channel, a copy of which is available with exchange4media, Nag wrote, “In a meeting with anchors on Thursday, January 31, 2008, NewsX chairperson Indrani Mukerjea told some of my colleagues that I, along with others like Executive Editor, Avirook Sen, Head of Domestic News, Rajesh Sundaram, and Editorial Advisor, Nick Pollard, would be asked to leave NewsX ‘very soon’. My email was blocked soon after, around 6.30 pm on Thursday evening.”
A similar resignation letter was written by Sundaram.
There are other names as well who are no more associated with the channel like Prakash Patra, Coordinating Editor, who resigned on his own, and Kailash Menon, Producer, who alleged that he was forced to resign.
“In recent times I have seen, with increasing dismay, the manner in which this organisation has been run: the scant regard for journalists is only the tip of the iceberg – the manner in which senior management has chosen to operate leaves me with the firm conviction that professionalism is a word to be bandied about, but disregarded in every activity – that respect and dignity are alien concepts – that NewsX has become an organisation few would want to work for and almost no one would hold as an example of how a world class news channel should be created, or run. You may, of course, choose to disagree,” Nag wrote in his resignation letter.
“Such an incident is unparalleled in the history of Indian journalism. Not only do I question Mrs Indrani Mukerjea's credentials to run a channel, I am also perturbed by questions about the source of her funds. She has told the press that she owns over 60 per cent of NewsX. Is this her own money, or is she fronting for somebody? I believe an investigation is called for,” said the letter.