Investigative news portal #Cobrapost has alleged through its latest report called Operation 136 of having found evidence of paid political campaigns running on Indian news channels, newspapers and websites. Airing a two-hour-long sting operation at a press conference in Delhi, Cobrapost said that it stung 3 dozen media houses and found that all these companies agreed to peddle Hindutva agenda in exchange for cash.
The portal said that Operation 136 derived its name from the World Press Freedom Index for 2017 where India slipped three positions to 136, highlighting slipping press freedom in the country.
An Undercover journalist “Pushp Sharma” become a member of fictional organisation “Shrimad Bhagvad Gita Prachar Samiti” and went to these media houses and told them that he is on a mission at the behest of the “Sangathan” to bolster the prospects of the party in power in coming elections.
Cobra post posted a video of their interaction with media personal of India TV, Dainik Jagran, Hindi Khabar, SAB TV, DNA, Amar Ujala, UNI, 9X Tashan, Samachar Plus, HNN 24×7, Punjab Kesari, Swatantra Bharat,ScoopWhoop, Rediff, India Watch, AJ Hindi Daily, Sadhna Prime News in the first part of their video.
Crisscrossing the length and breadth of the country, Sharma met owners and important functionaries of various media houses and asked if they would run his media campaign. An important ingredient of this campaign was planting news items or content duly paid for to denigrate and sully the opposition, mainly the Congress party, JD, SP and BSP. In the first three months, the paid content will peddle soft Hindutva; as the relationship with their organization builds into a certain amount of trust, the content will take a political overtone, with a clear-cut tilt in favour of the party in power to bolster its prospects in 2019 general elections. As samples of the media campaign that he wanted to launch using their platforms, Sharma sometimes played before them some evocative jingles, caricaturing Rahul Gandhi, to set the tone of his interviews. Shockingly, these jingles were conceptualized and developed by the creative teams of some FM radio stations. Two such jingles are transcribed and reproduced here as samplers:
A man speaking to a farmer: “Ye aapke pair khet mein gande kyon ho jaate hain (Why do your feet get soiled in the fields).”
Farmer: “Sahib mitti hai na khet mein … isiliye (It is because there is soil all around in the fields, Sahib).
Man: “Chinta mat karo … humari sarakar aayi toh poore khet mein farsh banwa denge (Don’t worry, if our party is voted to power, we will get all your fields cemented).”
Another Voice: “Kya aap apna vote aise Pappu leaders par barbaad karenge (Will you waste your vote on such Pappu leaders).” The same voice now exhorts: “… apne vote kee qadra kijiye … sahi party ke liye vote kijiye … Karnataka kee janata ke liye Shri Bhagvad Gita Samiti dwara janhit mein jaari (Your vote is valuable … vote for the right party … Issued in public interest by Shri Bhagvad Geeta Samiti for the people of Karnataka).”
A man speaking to a villager: Aapki kya kya pareshaniya hain (What your problems are)?
Villager: Beta gaon mein paani bijli toh hai lekin ek bhi shamshan ghat nahi hai (Son, our village has both power and water but there is no cremation ground).
Man: Toh main kya karoon (So what can I do for you)?
Villager: Gaon mein shamshan ghat bana dete toh theek rahta (It would be fine if you can make a cremation ground for us).
Man: Hmmm … is baar humko jitana sabke gharon mein ek-ek shamashan ghat zaroor banwa doonga (Hmmm … then if you vote us to power this time around, I will sure have one cremation ground for each household).
A voice: “Kya aap apna vote aise Pappu leaders par barbaad karenge (Will you waste your vote on such Pappu leader).”
The same voice now exhorts: “… apne vote kee qadra kijiye … sahi party ke liye vote kijiye … Karnataka kee janata ke liye Shri Bhagavad Geeta Samiti dwara janhit mein jaari (Your vote is valuable … vote for the right party … Issued in public interest by Shri Bhagvad Gita Samiti for the people of Karnataka).”
Here are the videos posted by CobraPost a proof of their conversation with media houses spokespersons.
UNITED NEWS INDIA
SADHNA PRIME NEWS
AJ HINDI DAILY
We have not been able to independently verify Cobrapost’s findings or conversations with the officials of the media houses or whether the tapes were doctored as alleged by India TV.
Cobrapost has claimed that they will be returning soon with bigger revelations in the second part of Operation 136.