Disdain for media has spread to the villages: Ex-ABP News scribe who quit in protest

08 April 2021
Shahid Tantray for The Caravan
Shahid Tantray for The Caravan

On 27 February, Rakshit Singh, a senior reporter with ABP News, gave his resignation from the channel in a dramatic announcement from the stage of a mahapanchayat. The mahapanchayat, being held in Bhausa village in Uttar Pradesh’s Meerut district, was part of the ongoing gatherings across north India in support of the farmers’ protests. Singh, who had gone to cover the protests, ended up becoming the story himself, as a video of his speech went viral. In the video, Singh says, “My parents spent their hard earned money to educate me, and I chose this profession … Because I wanted to show the truth.” He said that the channel did not want him “to show the truth,” and that he had been asked to show that the number of people at the mahapanchayat were far lesser than the actual attendance. The channel denied his allegations in a subsequent statement.

In late March, The Caravan’s Sunil Kashyap, a reporting fellow, and Shahid Tantray, a multimedia reporter, spoke to Singh about his reasons for quitting. Singh said that the overall media environment in the country had been vitiated by the actions of a few media houses who “have an agenda.” An edited excerpt from the conversation is reproduced below.

I started working as a journalist around fifteen years ago—first with a newspaper in Dehradun, and then I worked for a year with a newspaper of the Rajasthan Patrika. I also worked with News Today. My graduation degree was Bachelors of Commerce, so I reported on business. After about a year there, the Dainik Bhaskar group launched a business newspaper, Business Bhaskar. I joined that and reported for them for five years. I covered the telecommunications and automobiles beat there, and continued to cover business and economy news. After that, I worked in a news channel, and there also my focus was primarily on business news. I covered Uttar Pradesh for around two years. I even covered the assembly elections of some states. I was a special correspondent.

I have been working in the media for the last 14 to 15 years, and as of today I am an independent journalist. I am on the streets today because I am trying to make a place for myself, however small it may be.

When I started in journalism, one of the main reasons was the honesty associated with the profession. And even more important than that integrity, was the respect one got from society. At that time, I had reached the final stages of the Officer’s Training Academy of the Indian Army exam, twice. After that I prepared for a Masters in Business Administration and got a decent score in the Management Aptitude Test. I was getting admission in good MBA colleges but despite that I chose journalism, knowing fully well that it is a low-paying profession. Even though there is less money in this job, it gets respect in society, and that honour is more than enough. I picked up journalism then and have been in the profession since then. And in the future also, I will keep doing independent journalism.

Sunil Kashyap is a reporting fellow at The Caravan.

Shahid Tantray is a multimedia reporter at The Caravan. He tweets at @shahidtantray.

Keywords: Farmers' Protest