In its first part of the expose, Investigative platform “Cobrapost” carried out a sting operation against the representatives of seven TV news channels, six newspapers, three web portals and an agency. The video of the sting operations purportedly showed that representatives of many of these media companies were willing to accept cash and not raise a bill for that amount. Cobrapost has released a series of sting operations and claimed that senior employees of 17 media outlets in the country had agreed to push polarising stories for money when they were approached by an undercover journalist.
As part of the plan, an under-cover Cobrapost reporter offered huge amounts, by way of advertisements and also in cash, for running pro-Hindutva campaigns and also for defaming several Opposition leaders and Union Ministers. They also expressed their readiness to malign image of political leaders, rake muck on most celebrated and members of legal fraternities and civil society, show judiciary in poor light and brand agitating farmers as Maoists, according to Cobrapost editor Aniruddha Bahal.
In the first part of ‘Operation 136’ – which derives its name from the rank India got in the World Press Freedom Index of 2017 – cobrapost.com has reproduced the excerpts of interactions its undercover journalist had with some of the most influential and popular media outlets across the country like India TV, India’s largest Hindi newspaper Dainik Jagran, the English newsaper DNA (Daily News and Analysis) which is owned by Zee and Dainik Bhaskar, Amar Ujala, Punjab Kesari, web portals ScoopWhoop and Rediff.com
The undercover operations were carried out by senior journalist Pushp Sharma, who said that “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.”
The revelation should make us all worried about the strength of our democracy and the integrity of our Media outlets, the so called Fourth Pillar of Democracy, no matter what our political preferences and affiliations are. As if the weakening of the constitutional institutions was not bad enough, we now have not a submissive media that is willing to further damage the democratic fabric of our country, forgetting that neutrality is paramount for any journalist.