On June 4, Anti-BJP cartoonist Manjul took to Twitter to insinuate that the Modi government has been trying to silence his freedom of expression. He had shared a screenshot of an email received from ‘Twitter Legal’, wherein it pointed out that the microblogging platform had received a request from Indian law enforcement authorities regarding his account. “Jai Ho Modi ji ki sarkar ki (All hail the Narendra Modi-led-government),” he alleged.
Twitter correspondence of this nature is not out of the ordinary. OpIndia itself has got several such emails from Twitter. In fact, other activists on Twitter have also received several such emails with the body of the email reading exactly the same as the text that was tweeted by Manjul.
However, this email became the trope with which Manjul, and several others, beat the Modi government. Manjul used this email to say, “Thanks to the Modi government that it did not ask Twitter to shut down the handle for being anti-religion and atheist and not considering Modi ji as my God.” Manjul further insinuated that the warning from Twitter was received at the behest of the Indian government. He wrote, “It would have been better if the government informed about the tweet that had offended it. I could have re-posted the same tweet. This would have helped the people.”
Soon, news surfaced that Manjul’s contract with Network 18 has been terminated. No sooner had the news appeared, did The Wire attribute the termination of the contract to the Twitter email that Manjul had got.
The Wire attributed its information to sources, said that “there was no indication that he would be suspended and the sudden move has taken them by surprise”. The Wire claims that it is the context of the email from Twitter that Manjul was suspended from Network 18, where had been working for the past 6 years.
The same report was then picked up by Newslaundry, another left-wing propaganda portal to spread the narrative further.
Legacy & big media are afflicted with the cancer of cowardice. It’s been there all along but is terminal now. Which is why they should be made irrelevant for the sake of democracy. Cartoonist Manjul loses Network 18 contract. https://t.co/jpMSRUPQQK
— Abhinandan Sekhri (@AbhinandanSekhr) June 11, 2021
Even when one evaluates the reasons being peddled by The Wire, to anyone who wishes to look at the situation logically, the reason seems to be a bit of a stretch. Any company generally terminates its freelance contributors as and when they please, mostly as a cost-cutting measure or when they believe that the freelance contributor has become more of a burden than an asset. That is a legitimate decision that any company would take and the decision can be based on several factors. However, it is rather convenient to claim that a decision such as this would be taken based on one generic email by Twitter, that is not unique to Manjul, but has been received by hundreds of people on social media.
A former freelance writer with Network 18 too chimed in on the controversy.
He indicated that he too had been removed with ‘immediate effect’ from the list of freelance contributors and attributed the move possibly to Network 18’s possible cost-cutting measures in the midst of a pandemic.
I was removed with “immediate effect” from list of freelance contributors by them 15 months ago.
Must be my Anti-Modi tweets, or possibly their continuous cost-cutting due to the pandemic and their consistently dropping traffic and reduced revenue.
Na, must be my Anti-Modi tweets https://t.co/bSLQSFuiT1
— Gappistan Radio (@GappistanRadio) June 12, 2021
In fact, lay-offs in the media industry were rather common during the Wuhan Coronavirus pandemic as portals and media houses struggled to make ends meet not just in India but across the globe.
In March 2021, left-wing media outlet BuzzFeed announced that it has laid off 47 reporters, editors and producers from the newly acquired HuffPost in USA. BuzzFeed also said that they would be closing down HuffPost’s Canadian operation due to the ongoing organisational restructuring.
In a statement, BuzzFeed CEO Jonah Peretti said to the employees that they would begin to restructure HuffPost to fast-track its path to profitability. Unfortunately, that includes staff reductions, and a number of talented colleagues will be laid off over the next few days, he said. Reportedly, Peretti said losses last year pegged at $20M and would be similar this year without intervention.
“Though BuzzFeed is a profitable company, we don’t have the resources to support another two years of losses,” said Peretti announcing his decision to lay off 47 employees.
In April 2020, the Digital far-left propagandist website The Quint has asked 45 employees to go on indefinite leave without pay in the wake of the Wuhan Coronavirus pandemic. The list of employees sent on indefinite leave by the propagandists at The Quint includes reporters, copy editors, a bureau chief, production staff and the entire technology team.
In April 2020 itself, India Today group had announced that it is shutting down its Delhi-tabloid Mail Today. The notice read, “It has been a privilege to be your paper of choice and inform you day after day. However, it is a fact that the coronavirus pandemic has drastically changed all our circumstances.” The print edition of Mail Today was in circulation from the last thirteen years. The notice further added, “It is with deep regret that we announce the suspension of the print edition of Mail Today, effective today.”
Therefore, the cost-cutting measures are not new in the midst of the pandemic and attributing Manjul’s exit to source based information and linking it to the Twitter email, only reeks of a motivated agenda that portals like The Wire and Newslaundry peddle rather effectively.
Interestingly, even an old colleague of Manjul did not quite believe the version being peddled by The Wire and Newslaundry. A former colleague of Manjul told OpIndia, “Manjul had resigned from DNA and had thought he’d have a flourishing freelance career and make much more money than what monthly salary was bringing him. However, his plans went haywire and he couldn’t get many contracts. He’s been bitter and now trying to blame external factors for a bad career move. I hope he’s finally making good money thanks to all publicity he’s been able to garner”.
It is pertinent to note here that Manjul was earlier a cartoonist with the Zee Media owned DNA. After taking up freelance work, he turned virulently anti-BJP and has been drawing cartoons since then to peddle anti-BJP agenda.
Irrational and motivated strategy to defame Modi government
While Manjul, The Wire and Newslaundry brazenly tried to portray the hand of the Modi government behind the Twitter correspondence, nothing can be further from the truth. If we apply the rationale of the anti-BJP cartoonist, then, it will imply that the Indian government is out there to destroy Opindia and popular Twitter users such as Vikaso and Ankur Singh since all mentioned have received the exact same correspondence from Twitter.
While it is not unusual for the left-liberal lobby to pin the blame on the Modi government over trivial issues, the hullaballoo created on Twitter by Manjul appears to be a part of a new devious strategy to peddle propaganda against the incumbent government.