Indian reporter in flood video scandal sacked

NEW DELHI (AFP) - An Indian television journalist who reported on deadly floods in the north of the country while perched on a survivor's shoulders has been sacked, the head of the channel told AFP on Wednesday.

"What he did was very inhuman. You cannot ride on someone's back for a story. We terminated him on Tuesday," said Mr Nishant Chaturvedi, channel head at News Express.

Mr Narayan Pargaien, reporting on the flash floods and landslides in Uttarakhand state, triggered outrage after a video clip went viral on the Internet showing him speaking into the camera while sitting on the shoulders of a local villager.

The reporter claimed that the survivor, who can be seen wobbling under the strain while standing in ankle-high water, had hoisted him onto his shoulders as a sign of respect.

The man "wanted to show me some respect, as it was the first time someone of my level had visited his house," Pargaien said in an interview to Indian media website on Tuesday.

"So while crossing the river he offered to help by carrying me... between which, I thought of reporting," he added.

Mr 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.

Mr Chaturvedi said the channel was investigating who uploaded the video onto YouTube although the reporter claimed it had been posted online by the cameraman who filmed it.

Mr Pargaien was summoned to the channel's office to enable him to present his side of the story and explain "what compelled him to do what he did".

"He said he thought he could do this. But then it means he did not use his basic sense of judgement as a human being," Mr Chaturvedi said.

Some 1,000 people have died in flash floods and landslides caused by heavy downpours in India's Uttarakhand state, known as the "Land of the Gods" for its revered Hindu shrines.

Helicopters and soldiers have evacuated tens of thousands of people, but several thousand pilgrims and tourists remain stranded throughout the state since early rains struck on June 15.

The channel is planning to post the controversial video on its own website to stress that it did not endorse the reporter's conduct.

"Reporters are supposed to be brand ambassadors of a channel. Sorry, this is not what we advocate," Mr Chaturvedi said.

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