The CEO and editor of the Live India television news channel that broadcast a fake sting operation that purported to show the alleged involvement of a teacher in a prostitution racket and set off a riot in the process said the reporter who carried out the investigation was a "criminal and breached the trust".
"The reporter kept me in dark and breached the trust. He is a criminal and a hazard for journalism," Live India editor Sudhir Chaudhary told IANS.
"As the head of the channel, I owe responsibility but there is no reason why I should trust him (now). He cheated me, Uma Khurana and Rashmi Singh.
"I issued a show cause notice to him on Sep 2 after reading newspaper reports and he gave us a handwritten reply defending the sting," Chaudhary said.
The reporter Prakash Singh is currently in Delhi Police custody.
Prakash Singh was arrested Friday on charges of cheating, fabrication of evidence and criminal conspiracy after he allegedly tried to frame Uma Khurana, a mathematics teacher of Sarvodaya Kanya Vidyalaya in central Delhi.
After the purported sting was shown on Live India, hundreds of angry people manhandled her and later the Delhi Education Department sacked her from her job. Taking note of the TV report, Delhi Police arrested Khurana under the Immoral Trafficking Prevention Act.
Live India is the new name of Janmat channel, promoted by Broadcast Initiatives Ltd of Markand Adhikari. Janmaat was a predominantly "views channel" earlier till it re-launched itself in the form of Live India, a 24x7 news channel, on August 3.
Since then Live India was focussing less on programmes, discussions and more on live news and adopted a tagline Khabar Hamari Faisla Aapka (News ours decision yours).
Chaudhary, who was earlier the executive editor of Rajat Sharma-owned India TV, joined as the editor and CEO in March this year.
Expressing helplessness over the situation, Chaudhary said, "I wish I were in a different situation and asking questions, not answering them. We have suspended the reporter till police reaches a conclusion."
Prakash Singh was earlier working with IBN 7, another Hindi news channel before joining Live India on Aug 6.
Chaudhary said the fake sting was not a stunt to gain more rating points and increasing viewership. "In the face of it the story is of great value. I wish the reporter had not messed it up.
"The issue is much larger than it looks from outside. I am sure police will go to the root of it. Let me clarify, the sting was not carried out by the reporter after joining our channel. It was much before August," he said.
Chaudhary said he regretted the whole episode but his channel was not the only culprit. "It's a sad event".
"Why the other channel gave a trainee journalist a go ahead to conduct the sting? If they found loopholes in the whole story, why did not they take action against him?"
Asked if he and his channel will apologise to Uma Khurana, once the court gives a clean chit to her, Chaudhary said, "So far police have not given clean chit to Khurana. If that happens we have to look at things from a different angle. But so far the sting seems half true."
Chaudhary said after the episode, he has ordered some equipment like those with forensic labs to check the authenticity of any suspicious tape before airing it. "It's not that we have no filters but the whole episode is an accident. We are going to put more filters in our organisation."