India Today fires journalist for anti-Modi tweet

Photo: Facebook/Shyam Meera Singh

New Delhi: A Delhi-based journalist Shyam Meera Singh was fired from service by Indian Today for criticizing Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi.

“I am terminated from my channel Aaj Tak (India Today Group) for writing these two tweets on Prime Minister Modi,” the journalist said in a tweet and shared the screenshots of the tweets he had written earlier.

“Regretfully, sine you are unable to follow the guidelines you have signed and accepted at the time of your employment, that we deem mandatory from all staff to keep our ecosystem healthy and abuse free, we are unable to continue your service,” reads the letter Singh shared on Twitter.

“This letter terminates your service and today July 18, 2021, may be considered your last working day. Kindly remove all references to the brands of the India Today Group from every social media handle with effect,” the letter added.

The development comes a day after 40 journalists figured in a leaked list of potential targets for surveillance using hacking software Pegasus, sold by the Israeli surveillance company NSO.

A number of Kashmiri journalists are also part of the surveillance program. The names include Aurangzeb Naqshbandi and Muzamil Jaleel of The Indian Express, Shabir Hussein Buchh, an independent journalist, and Iftikar Gilani, a journalist covering JK.

The list also includes two serving Cabinet ministers at the GoI, three opposition leaders, a Constitutional authority, government officials, and scientists.

The other journalists include Shishir Gupta, Prashant Jha, Rahul Singh, Saikat Dutta, all associated with Hindustan Times, Vijaita Singh of The Hindu, Ritika Chopra and Sushant Singh of The Indian Express, Sandeep Unnithan of India Today, Siddharth Varadarajan, Swati Chaturvedi, Devirupa Mitra, Rohini Singh and MK Venu of The Wire, Gopikrishnan of The Pioneer, Paranjoy Guha Thakurta, journalist and adviser of NewsClick, Manoranjana Gupta, editor-in-chief, of Frontier TV, Smita Sharma, IndianAhead, Prem Shankar Jha, Indian economist, Santosh Bhartiya,  a journalist and an ex-MP, Deepak Gidwani, independent journalist, Bhupinder Singh Sajjan, Punjabi journalist, and Jaspal Singh Heran, a Punjabi journalist.

The list also mentions activists, businessmen, and those from the legal fraternity. A number registered in the name of a sitting Supreme Court judge was also on the database, The Wire, a web portal which was part of the global media project involving 16 other outlets, reported late Sunday evening.

As per the report, two founding editors of The Wire are on this list, as is its diplomatic editor and two of its regular contributors, including Rohini Singh. Singh’s number appears after she filed back-to-back reports on the business affairs of home minister Amit Shah’s son, Jay Shah, and Nikhil Merchant, a businessman who is close to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and while she was investigating the dealings of a prominent minister, Piyush Goyal, with businessman Ajay Piramal.

The report added that the number of former Indian Express journalist Sushant Singh appears on the list in mid-2018, at a time when he was working on an investigation into the controversial Rafale aircraft deal with France, besides other stories. Digital forensics conducted on Singh’s current phone showed signs of Pegasus infection earlier this year.

The leaked database was accessed by Paris-based media nonprofit Forbidden Stories and Amnesty International and shared with The Guardian, The Washington Post, Le Monde, The Wire, among others, as part of a collaborative investigation called the ‘Pegasus Project’.

India was among the 10 countries where the numbers were concentrated with Mexico topping the list with 15,000 numbers. This is the second time that Pegasus has been linked to phone surveillance. In 2019, some WhatsApp users in India, including journalists and activists, were informed that their phones had been compromised.

The Government of India, however, dismissed allegations of any kind of surveillance on its part on specific people, saying it “has no concrete basis or truth associated with it whatsoever”.

Asserting that “India is a robust democracy that is committed to ensuring the right to privacy to all its citizens as a fundamental right”, the GoI dismissed the media report as an attempt to playing “the role of an investigator, prosecutor as well as jury”.


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