Newsroom Censorship: Vice India does not want Amit Shah’s phone call?

In June 2016, with great fanfare, the US-based news agency Vice announced the launch of its joint news venture in India. The second partner in this partnership was the Indian media giant Times Group. Times Group has started many such ventures through Times Bridge. It also includes an agreement with the Huffington Post, which was surrounded by unknown crises within just a year.

With the frills with which Vice India was announced, the matter could not proceed with such ease. Wise had plans to launch a TV channel and a digital platform in association with the Times group. But two years after this announcement, the news coming from Vice’s newsroom is not positive. Vice’s website has not been launched yet, the license application for the TV channel is stuck in the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting. This project has been delayed for over a year. The launch of the website, which is planned to go live from April 1, is also under doubt. Now the news is that the launching has been postponed till 15 April.

Vice Digital’s Editor-in-Chief Pragya Tiwari resigned at the end of January. He was appointed in June 2017. Despite this, there was no significant progress towards the launch of the website while leaving. Pragya’s resignation is said to be the cause of her father’s illness. He has recently had a heart attack. After Pragya, by the middle of March, managing editor Rishi Mazumdar and news editor Kunal Majumdar also resigned. After the resignation of three senior editorial members, the launch of the website hangs in the balance. Apart from this, everything is not well in the newsroom, all the speculations and speculations are being made about it.

According to the news coming out from the current editorial staff and other sources working in Vice, the relationship between editorial and management has deteriorated. The management was continuously interfering in the editorial. The whole controversy started from here.

Different people working in the company who do not want to reveal their identity, they say that after the resignation of Pragya’s Vice, many conflicts between editorial and management had arisen. However, these conflicts started with Pragya only.

All the things and documents have come together and three important things are clear on seeing them together. First, the management told the editorial that it did not want a phone call from Amit Shah and no legal notice. Second, the legal waiting of all the news was being done on one side, third, the management had announced the formation of a Cultural and Political Sensitivity Committee, which was a dispute between the editorial and the management. And in the result both editors resigned. What is the truth in these three things, we will see one by one. Newslaundry has internal mail attached to it.

Was Amit Shah related statement?

According to one of the editorial staff working in the Delhi office of Vice and one of the resigned people, in the presence of the editorial team, Mumbai staff and marketing team were publicly told on two occasions that they were asked by Amit Shah There should be no phone call from Nor do they need any legal, court notice.

Vice President, Asia Pacific CEO Hosie Simon came to Delhi in the first week of February, just before Pragya Tiwari’s resignation. He had a meeting with the editorial and marketing team. In that meeting, Vice President CEO Chanpreet Arora said publicly that no call should come from Amit Shah.

At that time most people did not take it seriously because around the same time, Pragya resigned and the attention of the people went to that place.

On March 12, after one and a half months, this was said by the management once again in a meeting with the editorial team. CEO Chanpreet Arora was meeting the editorial team through teleconferencing. Managing Editor Rishi Majumdar, News Editor Kunal Mazumdar, Desk Head Sonal, and Copy Editor Vivek Gopal were also present at the meeting along with other editorial staff. Chanpreet said that she should not get a phone call from Amit Shah nor should she need any legal notice from any court in the initial days. Around this time it was also revealed that all the stories planned for the launch would be passed by a legal team. We will discuss this further.

After this statement from the CEO, an atmosphere of resentment was created within the editorial team. Although no one has officially opposed it, this fact has not come to our knowledge. After this, the news of the resignation of Rishi and Kunal came directly.

What is the truth of the Cultural Political Committee?

According to the members of the Vice Editorial Team, the message was being given to the entire team for a long time that political and cultural sensitive news should be avoided or else the legal waiting of such news will be made. Many people in the editorial staff of Vice believe that such messages were coming from the management (Chanpreet Arora). However, no one wants to reveal their name.

According to a team member, initially such messages were given verbally to the team, which people did not take very seriously. But on 10 March, which was Saturday and the office was closed, on that day CEO Chanpreet Arora sent a mail to the legal team and some members of the editorial team. Order to create “Cultural Political Committee” for the first time in this mail

came in front. Chanpreet wrote that- Sameera will decide the name of two members for this team and the name of two members will be decided by Managing Editor Rishi Majumdar.

After this mail sent on 10 March, there was a lot of resentment in the editorial team. Because the management was unilaterally imposing their decisions on them without consulting the editorial. There were also many messages to send this kind of mail, especially on a holiday. After this, a meeting was held in the office on Monday i.e. March 12, which has been mentioned above, in which Chanpreet publicly said that he should not get a phone call from Amit Shah. The next day, on 13 March, Rishi Mazumdar also sent his resignation. Was Rishi’s resignation the reason for the mail sent by Chanpreet on March 10 and Amit Shah’s statement in public on March 12? When the newslaundry tried to talk to Rishi about this, he refused to talk.

However, on 26 March, Rishi sent a mail to the members of his editorial team. This mail proves those things that he had problems with Chanpreet Arora’s interference in editorial matters and the proposal of the Cultural Political Committee. This reporter has read that entire mail.

What is the truth of legal waiting for news?

Vice India plans to launch a website with 60 news stories. This reporter has seen the news tracker of Vice India. By March 20, he had 34 out of 60 stories ready. There were stories related to gay rights, beef, Bajrang Dal etc.

Here we cannot mention those stories in detail. Legally weighted with a green tag in front of all 34 stories. That is, Vice is working on the policy of publishing all his stories by examining them legally.

A staff of the Vice Editorial team said on the condition of anonymity, “All the story is sent to a legal expert. He sends his opinion and corrections on these. Only then is that story considered a final. ”

Many questions arise here, for example, is it possible to legally weight all the stories from one end in a media organization? Every story gets annoyed with someone, in such a case the legal team will have some logic to drop or improve every story. Do those arguments apply to journalism? Can a media house do this? And even more important question, why does Vice India have such mistrust of its editorial staff?

These are all questions on which we will discuss further, but it is more important to know how this situation happened. How legal waiting began.

Initially, there were three stories which the management objected to. He asked his legal team for advice about the three of them. These three stories are like this-

1- Beef (not buff) is still served in a five star hotel in Delhi. Its source is the hotel chef.

2- ‘Gay’ Spa in Delhi.

3- ABVP’s Gay Worker.

According to a member of the editorial team, two of these stories were from the resigned news editor Kunal Majumdar. He was first selected for legal waiting. Vice sent these stories to a legal adviser named Mayank Mukherjee.

Mayank suggested several improvements in the three stories, which caused dissatisfaction within the editorial. Mayank’s opinion on the first story was that- “This is a content to hurt public reputation because this interview will require the necessary documents.”

Mayank’s response to the second story- “The whole article is politically very sensitive. It is a violation of Section 377. In return, there may be pressure to expose the source.”

Mayank’s response to the third story- “ABVP’s name should be removed from the title. The entire article is very sensitive politically, parties whose names are in it can create violent uproar.”

Not only this, the management of the Vice issued an order stating that the access to the story tracker should be given to Mayank Mukherjee, a member of the legal team. Know here what a story tracker is – a story tracker is actually an online Excel file in which every story is recorded. Whether its status is published or unpublished, edited, what is the status of the image, when is the schedule for publication, etc. Obviously, it remains under the supervision of the editorial team. Every newsroom has this kind of arrangement, which is known by different names. No journalistic institution gives its reach to members outside the editorial team as it runs the risk of leaking stories and their privacy. Nevertheless, the Vice Management issued such an order.

All these conflicts eventually created a situation in which today the entire vice digital is on the verge of disintegration. Previously it was to be launched on April 1, now there are reports that it has been extended to April 15.

What can be the reason for the pressure on the legal waiting and editorial team by Vice India to this extent. There is also a truth that Vice was going to start a TV channel in association with Times Group. But according to a story by Ken, this proposal is stuck in the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting. Vice’s TV project has been delayed for over a year. There is also a rumor that Vice does not want to do any such story that affects the current government and its political cultural sensitivity. Otherwise, there is no reason to believe that the Vice who does news against Donald Trump in America, broadcasts stories related to gay rights in India. He imposed this kind of censor on the editorial team in his newsroom.