In sting operation, CobraPost records major newspapers, TV channels discussing biased coverage before the 2019 elections in exchange for huge payments.
Investigative platform Cobrapost on Monday said it had exposed several Indian media houses whose representatives allegedly showed willingness to peddle the Hindutva ideology and malign many senior Opposition leaders and Union Ministers in lieu of proceeds ranging from ₹6 crore to ₹50 crore.
In its first part of the expose, Cobrapost carried out a sting operation against the representatives of seven TV news channels, six newspapers, three web portals and an agency. The platform plans to release the next part of the operation in April. 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.
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.
“Codenamed Operation 136, this investigation was undertaken by senior journalist Pushp Sharma and establishes Indian media’s propensity to run content irrespective of its nature to soar up their bottom lines,” said a Cobrapost statement.
Cobrapost revealed that Sharma met alleged representatives of more than two dozen media houses, including India TV, Dainik Jagran, Hindi Khabar, SAB TV, DNA (Daily News and Analysis), Amar Ujala, UNI, 9X Tashan, Samachar Plus, HNN 24*7, Punjab Kesari, Swatantra Bharat, ScoopWhoop, Rediff.com, IndiaWatch, Aj and Sadhna Prime News.
The reporter promised to pay for promoting Hindutva through customised religious programmes, promoting speeches of Hindutva hardliners, running campaigns against Opposition parties and their leaders and also target certain Union ministers on various platforms.
“Shockingly, almost all media houses showed their eagerness to undertake such a diabolical media campaign,” said Cobrapost.
He said the sting was named Operation 136 because India is placed at 136th position in 2017 World Press Freedom Index.
He said the contents of the campaign were violative of various sections of the Indian Penal Code, which hold publication of content communal and defamatory nature a criminal act punishable by imprisonment.