Former Congress leader Shehzad Poonawalla today took to Twitter to inform that ABP News had dropped him from a debate panel under pressure from the Congress party. Poonawalla shared an audio conversation with a media coordinator of the ABP News, to assert that Congress had blackmailed the channel into dropping him if they wanted their spokesperson to join the debate.
Apparently, the debate was about the toolkit issue that the Congress party had found itself mired in. At around 2 PM, Shehzad says he was requested by the ABP to join their debate that was scheduled for 5 pm. However, at 4:15 pm, Shehzad received a phone call from the ABP media coordinator, who informed him that the Congress party had asked them to drop him from the panel or else they would boycott the debate.
I have given audio proof above 👆that due to Congress blackmail they are dropping me ((Congress has done this many times but now here is proof)— Shehzad Jai Hind (@Shehzad_Ind) May 21, 2021
Is this Free speech? Tolerance ?
I am an anchor presenter & analyst by profession & I fear Congress will hound me even more 2/n pic.twitter.com/CVIz0VEoZj
According to the conversation, Congress spokespersons reportedly refused to share the screen with Shehzad Poonawalla, who has been critical of the party after his fallout with the Congress party. In the conversation, the ABP media coordinator can be heard saying that Congress would boycott the debate if Shehzad Poonawalla participates in it.
Poonawalla further tweeted, “In audio you can hear clearly that @ABPNews revealed that CONGRESS has clearly dictated that I should not be there on panel! It’s clear blackmail & control of spineless pliable news channels If anything happens to me or if I lose my job it will be due to Congress alone.”
Shehzad claims this is not the first time that he has been dropped from a debate because of pressure from Congress, the party which proclaims itself as being a staunch proponent of freedom of speech. Many times in the past, Shehzad contends, Congress had coerced news channels into dropping him from debate panels.
From once being a loyal Congress leader and supporter, who represented the party in debates on several news channels, Shehzad ran afoul with the party after he raised questions on the in-party democracy and had declared the 2017 elections for the post of party president rigged.
Congress toolkit fiasco
Congress has found itself in hot water after social media was awash with a toolkit document, which entailed point-by-point instructions for the Congress workers to attack the Modi government. From maligning the Kumbh Mela and describing it as ‘super spreader’ to using international media and ‘friendly’ journalists to defame PM Modi, to blocking beds and hoarding other essential supplies for favourable social media PR, the content of the toolkit included a range of directives for the loyal Congress leaders and supporters to be followed to paint PM Modi and his government’s handling of the coronavirus outbreak in a bad light.
It later got AltNews to discredit the toolkit as fake and forged. However, the arguments provided by the left-leaning propaganda website only served to deepen the suspicions that the toolkit may have indeed be prepared and disseminated by the Congress party.