On 29 August 2016, Naseer Ahmed, a senior journalist based in Kashmir, resigned from his post at IBN7, a news channel under Network18, which is a media company owned by Reliance. Ahmed, who previously worked as the Srinagar bureau chief for Zee News for 16 years, had been reporting for IBN7 from the valley since November 2014. In his resignation, he noted that he had had a “nice experience” during the 23 months for which he had worked with the organisation. “But during last fifty-two days’ I observed Television journalism in India has taken U turn and it portrays unnecessary, biased and partial news reports,” he continued. He added, “Nationalism to some level is fine but when an assistant professor or an ATM guard is being murdered in cold blood by government forces and one can’t report then in my opinion its no more journalism, so I have decided to call it a day.”
“My channel’s head Prabal Pratap Singh forced me to resign as he is trying to change the face of the news,” Ahmed told me over the phone on 31 August 2016. Ahmed alleged that, in July, the channel wanted him to file a fabricated report on the slain Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani’s alleged relationship with his girlfriend. “I rejected to file it. The channel got the same story done from its Jammu reporter. I learnt the script of the story was dispatched from the Delhi office,” he told me. A few days ago, Ahmed said he filed a report on a lecturer who was beaten to death by the army in south Kashmir’s Pulwama distrct. “But my report was not aired,” he said. He told me that another story about an ATM guard, who was killed by the forces in Srinagar’s Karan Nagar area in the first week of August, met the same fate. “I was told to show how stone-throwers block school-goers in the valley. No such incident occurred yet the channel wanted me to file a false report,” he said.
“All news channel reporters send their reports to Delhi, but it gets edited according to their own guidelines,” Ahmed added. “Sometimes we are ashamed once we see our reports on the screen.”
Ahmed said that though he did not have any “hard feelings” towards the channel, he recalled the respect journalists held during the 1990s, when the armed militancy was at its peak in the region. “People used to respect, greet and hug journalists,” he said. “Now the situation is different. If you go to people they can beat you to death because Kashmir is being wrongly portrayed, especially by the news channels.” He recounted how, while he was doing a walk-through on 28 August, the fifty-first day of the ongoing uprising, at Lal Chowk, a local called him a “bastard, for showing normalcy.” Ahmed added: “It is not journalism, but jingoism.”
At 7.22 pm on 1 September 2016—the day on which The Caravan had published this story on its web-exclusives platform, Vantage—Network18 sent The Caravan a legal notice. Through this notice, it responded to and categorically denied Ahmed’s allegations. The notice stated that, in the past few months, Ahmed had “completely failed to perform his official duties and his journalistic performance was terribly wanting.” “He had been in repeated breach of the terms of his appointment,” it continued, “Amongst other employment norms, Mr. Ahmed failed to attend the daily editorial con-calls, submit weekly MIS, or even respond to emails from his superiors. In fact he even failed to cover several important events of national interest.” Ahmed’s lack of response, the notice stated, had led to the Srinagar bureau of the channel failing “to produce even an average performance over the last few months even as the Kashmir Valley occupied centre stage in National News.”