News Brief

Embroiled In A Row Over Accusations Of Ideological Bias And Partisanship, Controversial Anchor Of  News18 Tamil Resigns

M R Subramani

Jul 31, 2020, 03:19 PM | Updated 03:19 PM IST

News18 Former journalist M Gunasekharan (Photo by SBS Tamil)
News18 Former journalist M Gunasekharan (Photo by SBS Tamil)

M Gunasekharan, a senior editor of News18 Tamil Channel, has quit the organisation after his wings were clipped following a controversy that erupted after accusations of ideological bias and political partisanship were levelled against him by video bloggers (vloggers).

Earlier this month, Tamil vloggers, led by Maridhas, released videos accusing News18 Tamil, owned by Mukesh Ambani’s Network 18, of pronounced political bias in its coverage of various political events in Tamil Nadu.

The allegations against News18 and its staff in Tamil Nadu were that the channel was supporting the thoughts and ideas of Dravidar Kazhagam (DK) and the Communists.

In particular, two of News18 journalists came under scrutiny for the channel’s biased coverage. One was Gunasekharan, who is the son-in-law of Peiyarist ideologue and senior DK leader Kali Poongundran.

The second was M Aasif, who was asked to leave soon after the vloggers questioned the channel’s functioning. According to Maridhas, the two ensured that 70 per cent of those recruited by News18 Tamil were either supporters or sympathisers of DK or Communists.

News18 Tamil was being controlled by these elements, who, according to the bloggers, indulged in “anti-India and anti-Hindu” campaigns through the Centre for Media Persons for Change (CMPC). This body, bloggers say, promotes campaigns and protests such as those against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) 2019.

Maridhas was asked to apologise for his vlog but he refused, saying that not a single query raised by him had got any response. He was also threatened by supporters of the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, resulting in police providing protection to the vlogger.

In view of these vlogs, Gunasekharan’s wings were clipped with the senior editor no more anchoring prime time debates.

However, the timing of his resignation is intriguing since two days ago he was a party to moving the Madras High Court along with his Group Editor Vinay Sarawagi against Maridhas claiming Rs 1.5 crore as compensation for defaming them.

In an ex-parte ruling, the High Court Judge C V Karthikeyan while issuing notice to the vlogger asked Maridhas to delete the video on News18. Maridhas is seeking a stay on this order.

In his letter announcing his departure, Gunasekaran highlighted how he had helped the channel perform well among a slew of Tamil news channels with various coverage of events starting from the Jallikattu protests in January 2017.

He termed News18 Tamil as his “beloved child”. Reactions to the news of his resignation were mixed.

While his supporters claimed it was a loss for News18 Tamil, his opponents said the main charge against him was that he failed to take a middle path.

M.R. Subramani is Executive Editor, Swarajya. He tweets @mrsubramani

Get Swarajya in your inbox.