Sting Operation By Cobrapost Alleges 17 Media Houses Ready To Accept “Fee” For Pushing Polarised Stories
A sting operation released by Cobrapost yesterday purportedly showed certain media houses ready to polarise stories in exchange for a fee.
The sting, called Operation 136 after India’s 136th rank the World Press Freedom Index, was executed out by journalist Pushp Sharma posed as Acharya Atal, who introduced himself in some of the meetings as belonging to an Ashram in Ujjain and in others as representing some Shrimad Bhagvad Gita Prachar Samiti.
“Most of them (media houses) not only agreed to do what he asked for but also suggested myriad ways for undertaking a well-orchestrated, overtly communal media campaign on behalf of their prospective big-ticket client,” said Sharma.
Some of the major media outlets named in the sting operation include DNA, Dainik Jagran, Amar Ujala, Punjab Kesari, India TV, Rediff and ScoopWhoop.
The investigative operation shows employees of 17 media houses agreeing to polarise stories and maligning many senior Opposition leaders, BJP leaders and Union Ministers in lieu of proceeds ranging from Rs 6 crore to Rs 50 crore.
Representatives of the said media houses were also offered money to “rake muck” on some prominent names in the legal fraternity, brand the agitating farmers as Maoists and also raise questions on judicial orders.
Must read & watch: Shocking Cobrapost expose of many major media organizations willing to peddle communally inflammatory, defamatory news, often fake, to influence elections. Will RS Prasad who roared against Cambridge Analytica & Facebook do anything? https://t.co/zCEZPcYDDW
— Prashant Bhushan (@pbhushan1) March 26, 2018
Following the allegation, The Indian Express tried reaching out to the accused media outlets for statements.
Sanjay Gupta, Chief Editor of Dainik Jagran and CEO of Jagran Prakashan Limited, denied the allegations and said Sanjay Pratap Singh, Area Manager of Dainik Jagran for Bihar, Jharkhand and Odisha, who made the claims to the undercover reporters had no authority to “commit such a thing.” After verifying the authenticity of the video, if the allegations are proven to be true, “action will be taken against” Singh, he said.
Sudipto Chowdhery, President, Sales, of India TV called the video “doctored” and “edited” and said “none” of the “proposals discussed or put forward” by the undercover reporter were accepted, and “were in fact entirely turned down by the editorial and legal teams of India TV”. Nothing shared by the reporter, the statement said, was aired on India TV. Claiming to take “strictest legal actions”, it said “the allegations made in the offending footage are emphatically denied”. Further, it stated that Cobrapost had “concealed important aspects of the discussion only to sensationalize the story and for their self-serving interests”.
Aniruddha Bahal, the Editor-in-Chief of Cobrapost, said this was the first part of a two-part series. The second part of the investigation will be released in April.
Big media silent
Apart from The Hindu and The Indian Express, mainstream media did not cover the sting. There were no prime-time debates on TV channels that dedicate news hours to Whatsapp forwards.
Furthermore, there is hardly any talk on social media about media houses ready to run pro-Hindutva campaigns for a fee.
I really hope atleast one anchor in the media will do a show on the damaging Cobrapost investigation today. There is no greater betrayal of the Constitution than to be silent when news is being sold like in a sabzi mandi
— Sid (@sidmtweets) March 26, 2018