27 May 2018

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Cobra Post Sting Expose Top Indian Media Houses agree to Black Money, Hindutva Paid News

Cobra Post Sting Expose Top Indian Media Houses agree to Black Money, Hindutva Paid News

Operation 136, Cobra post editor Aniruddha Bahal said, the sting revealed that most of the media houses are either owned by politicians themselves, particularly the regional ones, or patronized by politicians, and therefore it was natural for them to become their masters’ voice. “Crony journalism and the search for revenue made for a lethal cocktail”

Operation 136: Part II,’ in fact, shows Indian media’s underbelly in its most visceral form, where even the “big daddies” do not mind agreeing to undertake a campaign that has the potential to not only cause communal disharmony among citizens but also tilt the electoral outcome in favor of a particular party. This they will do if they are paid the right price, and sometimes they have no compunctions to quote a price as high as Rs. 1000 crore, as did the Times Group owner Vineet Jain, while others showed a propensity to indulge in any kind of illegality bordering on criminality.

The title, Operation 136, refers to India’s ranking on the press freedom index in 2017.

Cobra post said The second and final installment of the exposé – code named Operation 136 – saw a total of 25 media houses “crumble under the weight of a ‘big business opportunity’ that was knocking on their doors without asking,”

Apart from the Times of India and India Today groups, the undercover investigation covered Hindustan Times, Dainik Bhaskar, Zee News, Star India, ABP, Dainik Jagran, Radio One, Suvarna News, Red FM, Lokmat, ABN, Andhra Jyothy, TV5, Dinamalar, Big FM, Prabhat Khabar, K News, India Voice, the New Indian Express, MVTV and OPEN magazine.

Cobra post was forced to withhold the recordings and communications it had from its interaction with the Dainik Bhaskar group after the latter managed to obtain an ex-parte injunction from the Delhi high court. The website has said it will challenge the injunction.

Cobra Post sting operation revealed that how Top Indian media houses are ready to business proposal
by undercover reporter seeking promotion of Hindutva agenda and influencing election results for a price.

Cobra Post said “all these on-camera confessions make it clear that the malaise of paid news has set in deep as it is no longer confined to a few individuals who would show no scruples while publishing paid content, camouflaging it as news stories or reports. Over the years, paid news has become institutionalized.”

Cobra post also claimed that its investigation established that the RSS, and as a corollary, its ideology of Hindutva, have made deep inroads into the newsrooms and boardrooms of Indian media houses where even owners either blatantly admit their allegiance to the party in power and its parent organization or are eager to have an association with them.

How the undercover cobra post reporter did this sting and reached to the top people or owners of media houses?

Undercover reporter wanted top media houses to run a media campaign on his behalf promoting Hindutva, offering them an ad spend ranging from a few crore rupees to Rs 500 crore in the case of the Times group.

First he impressed and influenced the junior executives of media houses after that each one took him to higher and higher levels of media houses

Cobra post said The “essential ingredients” or the deal were “spread wide before them” at the outset and repeated in each meeting.  The agenda included promoting Hindutva in the initial phase of three months through customized religious programmes to create a congenial atmosphere. Then the campaign was to be “geared up to mobilize the electorate on communal lines by promoting speeches of Hindutva hardliners, the likes of Vinay Katiyar, Uma Bharti and Mohan Bhagwat, among others,”

Finally, as elections approach, the campaign would move to “target opposition leaders, namely, Rahul Gandhi, Mayawati and Akhilesh Yadav, caricaturing them using less than dignified language like Pappu, Bua and Babua, respectively, for them, in order to show them in poor light before the electorate.” The arrangement included running the campaign on all platforms – print, electronic, radio or digital including, e-news portals, web sites and social media such as Facebook and Twitter.
Cobra post said on Friday that the recordings it made showed how some two dozen news organizations were willing to “not only cause communal disharmony among the citizens but also tilt the electoral outcome in favor of a particular party” for a price.
The only two media houses whose representatives refused the undercover reporter’s proposals were the Bengali newspapers Bartaman and Dainik Sambad.
Cobra post sent an undercover journalist, Pushp Sharma, to pose as “Acharya Atal”, a man who identified himself as a representative of an unnamed “sangathan”, or organization, but who gave the impression that he was a member of or close to the Nagpur-based Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS). In the recordings the website put up on YouTube on Friday afternoon, Acharya Atal can be heard trying to strike deals with media house executives involving the promotion of a Hindutva agenda through advertorials – paid-for content – that would run on their newspapers, radio stations, TV channels and websites.

Times Group
The biggest name to be stung by Cobra post was Times Group owner and managing director Vineet Jain. In a number of videotaped conversations, Jain and the group’s executive president, Sanjeev Shah, can be seen and heard discussing the proposed deal in which Acharya Atal said he would pay Rs 500 crore in exchange for advertorials and events that that would be presented as programming on Krishna and the Bhagvad Gita but which would serve as a cover for Hindutva and its political agenda.
Cobra post said, In one of the meetings, Jain and Shah offer guidance to the undercover journalist on how to make payments in cash. “We found them naming some big corporate houses which could help make black money squeaky clean,”
Cobra post added that while Vineet Jain said, “Aur bhi businessmen honge jo humein cheque denge aap unhe cash de do” (There are other businessmen who would give us cheque against the cash you may give them), his aide Shah elaborated on this to the undercover journalist saying: “Who will take that from him in Delhi suppose if Goenka says I want it in Ahmedabad so that I Angadiya will have contact in Ahmedabad where they will exchange in number on a note or whatever.”

Kalli Purie of India Today group
In his meeting with Kalli Purie, vice-chairperson of the India Today group, Cobrapost’s undercover journalist spoke about using Krishna and the Bhagvad Gita to promote Hindutva since Ram and Ayodhya had become controversial. He said the ‘sangathan’ would make use of the Krishna messaging the India Today group would put out to promote Hindutva among the wider public as part of its “infield activities”. The reporter also spoke about translating the campaign for his “political gains” and even said that he should not be held accountable later for polarisation.
Pushp Sharma had earlier met TV Today’s chief revenue officer, Rahul Kumar Shaw, who had conveyed to  him his own support for the sangathan’s agenda. “I must tell you, I am very very pro, very pro to the government”. Soon after the meeting with Kalli Purie, Shaw sent an email proposing a Rs 275 crore advertising campaign – an astonishing amount for what was officially going to be described as promotion of the Bhagvad Gita.
In his meeting with Kalli Purie, ‘Acharya Atal’ insisted the campaign also run in Cosmopolitan, the group’s fashion magazine.

HT Media Ltd -
In a meeting with Avneesh Bansal, associate vice president of HT Media Ltd, ‘Acharya Atal’ is told that money spent on advertorials will produce editorial dividends too:
Bansal: Mera personal suggestion yeh hai, I am sure media strategy is a very very big part of Sangh strategy, so you should attack in two ways. One is tying up with media houses, so if you are giving me a couple of crore rupees to talk positive about you, automatically my editorial is under pressure not to go deep negative … Keep funding the media house so agar hum ek positive cheez ke liye fund kar rahe hain, they will refrain form being go deep negative, but they can’t ignore a news
Acharya Atal: Theeek hai, usko hush up kar dein, low tone de dein
Bansal: This is one.
Acharya Atal: Theek hai.
Bansal: Doosri cheez kya hai, you should find a PR company of repute which has inroads in the top market, right, and they can control the reporters, kyonki they are the source of news.
Bansal then differentiates between reporters who have a fire inside them and other reporters who are “light minded and who are not working for professional desire but monetary desire” and says the PR company will work through them.

In the case ABN Andhra Jyothy, a prominent Telugu TV news channel patronised by TDP supremo Chandrababu Naidu, Cobra post said, its chief marketing manager E.V. Seshidhar was candid enough to admit: “We have very good connects with TDP … We have do [sic] lot of what do you call we have main official what do you call for AP government Andhra Pradesh government, we have official event telecaster rights for Andhra Pradesh government.”

Zee Media -
Cobra post said Purushottam Vaishnav, who is now CEO regional news channels at Zee Media, saying he agreed to “run down political rivals by unleashing their SIT ([investigative team] on them”.
“Content mein jo aapki taraf se input aayega wo absorb ho jayega … humare taraf se jo content generate hoga investigative journalism hum log karte hain karwa denge jitna hum logon ne kiya hai utna kisi ne nahi kiya hoga wo hum log karenge (Whatever input you will send in the form of content that will be absorbed … the content we will generate … we have been doing investigative journalism, we will do it for you. [Compared to Zee] none of the channels has done so many … we will do that),” it quoted Vaishnav as saying.

BJP RSS affiliation -
“For instance, Big FM senior business partner Amit Choudhary admits to the relationship between the company that owns Big FM and the party in power in no uncertain terms,” it said, as it quoted Choudhary as saying: “Waise bhi Reliance BJP ka supporter hee hai (Anyway, Reliance is always a supporter of the BJP).”
Similarly, it quoted Basab Ghosh, regional sales head of OPEN magazine, which is owned by the RP-Sanjiv Goenka Group, confessing his organisation’s allegiance to the RSS: “Acharyaji shayad aap bhi busy rehte hain aap shayad Open dekhte nahi hain regular. Main aapko ek baat bataata hoon. Open jitna support karte hain sangathan ka shayad hee koi karta hoga. (Acharyaji, perhaps you are a busy man and maybe you don’t read OPEN regularly. Let me tell you one thing. Nobody supports the Sangathan [RSS] as much as does OPEN).”

Cobra post said of all the interviews that the journalist had with the owners and personnel of various media houses in the course of its investigation, the one with BJP legislator from Belapur, Pune, Manda Tai, who is also the owner of a local channel of Pune, MVTV, stood out.
While criticising her own party and claiming that it was the RSS leadership which ensured she got a ticket to fight the election after she switched loyalties from NCP to the BJP, she revealed: “Mere ko Sangh wale bol rahe the ki Muslim masjid todo, ye karo. Main boli sorry main ye nahi kar sakti. Masjid sthal sab kachre ke maafiq dekhte hain. Itna log ka hum hay nahi le sakte hain kyonki aadhe log apne se jud gaye hain (The Sangh people were telling me time and again to destroy the masjids of Muslims. I told them ‘Sorry I can’t do that.’ They all look at a masjid as something like trash. I cannot afford to earn so much ill-will of all those people [by resorting to such hate] because many Muslims have joined the BJP).”
Undercover reporter Sharma approached media groups with hypothetical offers ranging from Rs 1.5 crore — for local news channels — to Rs 500 crore for national networks including Star India and the Times Group. None of the videos shows that any money was exchanged or a contract was signed or if any of the news groups ran content in lieu of money.

Paytm -
Ajay Shekhar Sharma of Paytm is seen telling the undercover reporter that he has done a lot of work for the RSS.
He is purportedly heard saying, “Hum kya bataein hum kya kya kaam kar rahein hote hain. Kuchh hum bhi nahin bata sakte aapko, matlab aise kaam humse karvaye Sangh ne main aapko bata nahin sakta, theek hai (how do I tell you what all we have to do…the Sangh has made us do such work that I cannot tell you…).” He is seen telling later that they have even been asked by the Prime Minister’s Office for help.
Regarding stone-pelters in Jammu and Kashmir, Paytm’s Sharma says, “toh humse personally PMO se phone aaya tha, kaha gaya thha ki data de do ho sakta hai ki Paytm ke user ho (I got a phone from PMO; I was asked to share data, as they may have been Paytm users).”

Operation: Part II can be summed up as follows:
 The media houses agreeing to run the campaign are Times of India,  India Today, Hindustan Times, Zee News, Network 18, Paytm, Bharat Samachar, Suvarna, Bartman, Dainik Samvad, Star India, ABP News, Dainik Jagaran, Radio One, Red FM, Lokmat, ABN Andhra Jyothy, TV5, Dinamalar, Big FM, K News, India Voice, The New Indian Express, MVTV and Open magazine.

They agreed to promote Hindutva in the garb of spiritualism and religious discourse.

They agreed to publish content with potential to polarize the electorate along communal lines.

They concurred to besmirch or thrash political rivals of the party in power by posting or publishing defamatory content about them.

Many of them were ready to accept unaccounted cash, in other words, for the job to be assigned to them.
Some of them agreed to route cash through a third-party agency to turn it into white, even suggesting hawala routes such as Angadiyas.

Some of the owners or important functionaries admitted that they were either associated with the RSS or they were pro-Hindutva and would thus be happy to work on the campaign, forgetting the cardinal principle of journalism: neutrality.

Some of them agreed to plant stories in favour of the party in power in their publications, while others were ready to unleash their investigative teams to rake muck on opposition leaders.

Many of them agreed to develop and carry advertorials especially for this purpose.

Many of them agreed to develop content for this invidious campaign by employing their own creative team.

Almost all agreed to run this campaign on their platforms – print, electronic, FM radio or digital in its various avatars such as e-news portal, e-paper or social media such as Facebook and Twitter.
Some of them even agreed to run down Union ministers Arun Jaitley, Manoj Sinha, Maneka Gandhi and her son Varun Gandhi, among others.

Some of them also agreed to run stories against leaders of BJP alliance partners, like Anupriya Patel, Om Prakash Rajbhar and Upendra Kushwaha.

Some of them even agreed to paint agitating farmers as Maoists in their stories.

Many of them agreed to create and promote such content as would aim for the “character assassination” of leaders like Rahul Gandhi.

Many of them are ready to run the content in such manner as would not look like paid for.

Almost all FM radio stations agreed to allow their customer to monopolize their free air time.
Many FM radio stations also agreed to use RJ mentions to promote the agenda: Hindutva and character assassination of rivals.

Operation 136: Part II is unique in the sense that it not only has exposed all these media houses but has also brought to the fore the fact that in a technology-driven age an agenda can find a mobile app a very effective medium to reach out to millions of users. Our expose of Paytm does exactly that. It brings home the point that one does not need an elaborate arrangement of the conventional media such TV channels or newspapers. A simple mobile app can achieve what the conventional platforms cannot: it can deliver the message with a blink of an eye. In fact, our interaction with top Paytm honchos is quite revealing in many respects, for it not only shows the company’s affinity to both the BJP government and its ideological fountainhead RSS, but also shows that users’ data can be compromised.

Cobra post found found Vineet Jain, Managing Director of the Times Group, and his aide Executive President Sanjeev Shah, naming some big corporate houses which could help make black money squeaky clean and even suggesting to employ the services of ‘Angadias’—a Gujarati name for hawaladars or hawala operators of illicit money—to get the job done.  While Vineet Jain says, “Aur bhi businessmen honge jo humein cheque denge aap unhe cash de do (There are other businessmen who would give us cheque against the cash you may give them), his aide Shah informs us: “Who will take that from him in Delhi suppose if Goenka says I want it in Ahmedabad so that I Angadia will have contact in Ahmedabad where they will exchange in number on a note or whatever.” Hope our Prime Minister and other arms of his government are listening!

Cobrapost’s Aniruddha Bahal told The Sunday Express that the investigation was conducted by Sharma on his own and that Cobrapost “bought” it from him. When told that the videos featured just chat, he said: “The reporter had gone with a specific intent and they took him very seriously… none of (the media executives) would have given us any time if they didn’t think that we have money”.

Source – Cobra Post, Wire, Indian Express

about cobra post - Cobrapost, was founded in 2003 by Aniruddha Bahal, the co-founder of Tehelka, is a critically acclaimed Indian non-profit news website and television production house, predominantly known for investigative journalism.

No one is criminal or guilty unless and until declared by the court of law.

Reality views by sm -

Sunday,May 27, 2018

Tags – Cobra Post Expose Indian News Channels


rudraprayaga June 01, 2018  

If it happened it is wrong with any party and that should be unveiled. If it is like Thapar, things should be brought to light.

All the parties try to make a divide among people party-wise , religion-wise or caste-based.