Former consulting editor for ANN7, Rajesh Sundaram, told the City Press newspaper that he went into hiding after being pursued by Atul Gupta’s armed bodyguard following his resignation.
According to the report, Sundaram had requested that he paid for the overtime he worked, which lead to a blowout with Gupta.
City Press goes on to quote Sundaram as saying that in a meeting about his demands, Gupta “hurled all kinds of abuse” at him.
Sundaram told the paper that this was expected behaviour from Gupta as he would get verbally abusive with staff that weren’t in the office at 06:00 despite working past midnight.
Following the meeting with Gupta, Sundaram said that ANN7 technical boss Laxmi Goel issued a veiled threat that he would ruin his career or harm him if he didn’t sign acceptance of 5 days of pay with no overtime. Sundaram tendered his resignation on Friday, 30 August 2013, five days after the last payday of 25 August 2013, City Press reported.
Sundaram declined to sign and left the ANN7 offices, followed by one of Atul Gupta’s armed bodyguards.
After a brief exchange, Sundaram told City Press he made a run for it when the bodyguard seemed intent on forcibly returning him to Gupta’s office.
Since going into hiding, Sundaram has reached out to the press for protection, the City Press reported.
High-level meetings with Zuma
Sundaram told City Press that he had attended meetings where the Gupta’s had given assurances that ANN7 would be pro-ANC.
According to Sundaram, the meetings were held at Zuma’s official residence in Pretoria with Ajay and Atul Gupta, Nazeem Howa (group CEO), and Moegsien Williams (editor in chief) in attendance.
Sundaram said that to his recollection they took a pre-recorded news bulletin for Zuma to watch for their third meeting, during July 2013.
He told City Press that Zuma said it was better than the SABC, and said that there should not be any direct propaganda when it was suggested a TV unit follow him around.
Zuma said that all sides should be represented and that the pro-ANC stance should be subtle, Sundaram is quoted as saying.
City Press reported that ANN7 hit back at Sundaram’s claims saying that he is a disgruntled former editorial consultant making outlandish allegations unworthy of a response.