An Indian cable news channel has fired a journalist who sat on the shoulders of a villager so his feet didn't get wet in ankle-deep water while covering floods in India's Uttarakhand state.
“What he did was very inhuman. You cannot ride on someone’s back for a story. We terminated him on Tuesday,” Nishant Chaturvedi, channel head at News Express, told The Telegraph.
Narayan Pargaien triggered outrage after a video clip went viral on the internet showing him speaking into the camera and sitting on the shoulders of a local villager.
The reporter said the stunt wasn't his idea, and then made a bad situation worse when he blamed his cameraman. He also claimed that the survivor, who can be seen wobbling under the strain while standing in ankle-high water, put him onto his shoulders as a sign of respect.
Chaturvedi said the channel did not broadcast the clip because it found it “highly distasteful”.
“He sent the clip to us. We were shocked to see him sitting on the poor man. You have to be a part of the people and not ride on them,” he said.
“Reporters are supposed to be brand ambassadors of a channel. Sorry, this is not what we advocate,” Chaturvedi said.
Chaturvedi said the channel was investigating who uploaded the video onto YouTube. The reporter claimed it had been posted online by the cameraman who filmed it.
Chaturvedi said he is planning to post the controversial video on his channel's website to underscore that it did not endorse the reporter’s conduct. A YouTube link of the video has been removed, citing a copyright claim by News Express.
Rick Westhead is a foreign affairs writer at The Star. He was based in India as the Star’s South Asia bureau chief from 2008 until 2011 and reports on international aid and development. Follow him on Twitter @rwesthead