Senior journalist Barkha Dutt took to Twitter on Monday, 15 July, to slam the “appalling” state of affairs at HTN Tiranga TV – a channel which she had been associated with – saying that more than 200 employees are facing sackings there without a six-month payout, and blamed Congress leader Kapil Sibal for treating journalists in a “hideous way”.
After Dutt’s tweets, Sibal has now invited the department heads of Tiranga TV to discuss the way forward and resolve the issue of pending salaries of 200 employees, reported IANS.
An appalling situation in @NewsHtn promoted by @KapilSibal & his wife, where more than 200 employees have had equipment confiscated and face sackings without even a 6 month pay out. Man who acts holier than though in public has treated journalists in a hideous way— barkha dutt (@BDUTT) July 15, 2019
Dutt accused Sibal – who backs the channel – of "duping and cheating" journalists, and not having "the decency to even meet them".
Dutt also claimed that Sibal’s wife made “disparaging” and “sickening” remarks against journalists, as she demanded a payout for the employees that is in compliance with the industry norm.
Wife, who ran a meat factory, says loudly in the workplace, "I shut down factory withut giving a paisa to labour, who are these journalists to ask for 6 months salary." Her labour should have been paid better, but her disparaing remarks of journalists is sickening— barkha dutt (@BDUTT) July 15, 2019
Am told @KapilSibal & wife wanted to use Modi as excuse to sack staff saying Modi didnt let channel run. But to be absolutely blunt. GOI has done nothing. Husband and wife have not faced staff, went on holiday to london, while shutting shop, prompting me to call him Mallya— barkha dutt (@BDUTT) July 15, 2019
"“For fighting for rights of staff, I have been threatened with defamation and ordered to ‘withdraw my emails’ comparing Kapil Sibal to Mallya. I have refused. I support the staff of HTN Tiranga TV and will help them fight this legally, with a criminal case and complain (sic).”" - Barkha Dutt’s tweet
The journalist also claimed that Sibal and his wife have used abusive language when referring to female staffers.
I would urge friends in the media fraternity and everyone with a voice to tweet @KapilSibal till he pays employees what is due to them instead of wriggling out with one month pay out and intimidating staff with threats of defamation & other Vakeel type tricks— barkha dutt (@BDUTT) July 15, 2019
Layoffs and Protests
According to a Newslaundry report published on 12 July 2019, over two dozen employees, coming from different departments, had been laid off at Tiranga TV in two rounds – the first one taking place in mid-June, followed by the second in early July.
The employees have protested against how the situation unfolded, where they allege they were not properly informed in advance. On Wednesday, 3 July, they had gathered outside the channel's office and also staged a silent protest outside the Press Club of India in Delhi.
Dear @KapilSibal. We the employees of @NewsHtn are aghast that the channel is shutting down & u r offering us only 1 month of severance pay. This is to inform you that from now on we'll be sitting here in the newsroom until u meet us & enhance the severance pay to 3 months@BDUTT— anubhuti gaur (@gaur_anubhuti) July 15, 2019
THREAD - It was a placement week at @ACJIndia around couple of months ago and person representing @NewsHtn had come to the campus for hiring people. He said he is an editor of the channel and told that they've enough money to run the channel for atleast 2 years.— Thadhagath Pathi (@PathiThadhagath) July 15, 2019
HTN, originally known as Harvest TV Network, went live on 26 January this year. Later, the name was changed to HTN Tiranga TV.
(With inputs from IANS and Newslaundry.)
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