Indian news outlet Cobrapost has alleged that the executives and owners of major media houses in the country are willing to promote certain agendas and defame political rivals in exchange for money (Huffington Post).
The agency did sting operations with an undercover reporter disguised as a Hindu nationalist to lure myriad new organisations agencies into publishing religious propaganda in advance of the next year’s general election (Al Jazeera).
Operation 136, as it was called, was named after India’s ranking in the World Press Freedom Index. The operation was conducted in two parts — Part I of the operation alleged 17 media companies to be part of money deal followed by second part of the operation which revealed that 25 of 27 media houses under the sting operation were ready to cut out the money deal with the undercover journalist (The Wire).
As an evidence of the deal, the agency has also published 49 videos of the Part II sting operation on YouTube.
Cobrapost Investigation: Operation 136: Part II. Watch big names in Media happy to run paid content irrespective of its nature which is highly malicious, on tomorrow, 25th May at Press Club of India, Raisina Road, New Delhi, at 3:00 pm.https://t.co/Owioxob3fCpic.twitter.com/RQorfiNaCH
— Cobrapost (@cobrapost) May 24, 2018
Along with the media houses, the reporter also caught the vice president of an Indian digital payments company confessing that the company was very close to a Hindu Nationalist organization and the ruling party in India.
Paytm’s senior VP Ajay Shekhar Sharma admitted to Cobrapost that he has received a phone call from the prime minister’s office after a stone-pelting incident in Jammu and Kashmir to share the personal data of a Paytm user who was allegedly involved. (The Newsminute). In response to the allegations of data breaching, the company shared an official statement saying:
Defending the allegations by the agency, two media houses have sent a legal notice to Cobrapost and have stated that the videos are doctored and distorted (The Newsminute). The Editors Guild of India also expressed its concern over the sting videos by Cobra Post and urged the media houses to explain their position to the public. The guild also said editorial freedoms must be fully respected. It said paid news, even a suggestion of it, was ruinous for the country’s media’s image (The Print).