Former I&B Minister Manish Tewari warns media ‘stung’ by Cobrapost

Cobrapost expose of media houses if true entails severe statutory implications including cancellation of licence even by a future government, said former I&B Minister and Congress leader Manish Tewari

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NH Web Desk

“Cobrapost expose needs to be very carefully perused. If what is put out is true (subject to independent verification if controverted), it entails severe statutory implications including cancellation of both Print and Broadcasting licences even by a future government,” said former Union Information and Broadcasting Minister and senior Congress leader Manish Tewari on May 27.

In more than 60 videos posted on its YouTube channel on Friday, May 25, investigative news portal Cobrapost in a purported ‘sting’ operation showed virtually all major media outlets falling over each other to accept lucrative offers to promote communal hatred, divisive agenda and character assassination of non-BJP political leaders. In some of the videos, character assassination of top Opposition leaders Congress President Rahul Gandhi, Bahujan Samaj Party president Mayawati and Samajwadi Party president Akhilesh Yadav appear to have been discussed.

The videos were from the second part of Cobrapost’s ‘sting’ operation on Indian media houses, entitled ‘Operation 136’. The shocking videos purport to show interactions between an undercover reporter posing as a big budget advertiser with top executives of media outlets, including publishers of Times of India Bennett Coleman & Company, Hindustan Times, The New Indian Express, Zee Group, ABP News, TV 18, ABN Andhra Jyothi, Dinamalar, Jagran Group, Open magazine, Lokmat, Sun Group and Big FM.

In the first part of it’s purported undercover ‘sting’ operation too, Cobrapost on March 26 screened videos showing media executives offering to blank out news ‘against Hindutva’, belittle Opposition and even NDA leaders, for cash. In one of the videos from the first part, a media executive is seen declaring to Cobrapost’s undercover reporter that he had no problem belittling political parties such as SPB, SP and Rashtriya Janata Dal, or defaming political leaders like Congress President Rahul Gandhi as long as the media house was paid fully in advance.

Tewari slams making money “in whatsoever unethical and illegal manner possible”

Tewari on May 29 again lashed out at the media. "BBC and other international media outlets have covered Cobrapost expose while silence of even unexposed and unstung sections of Indian media is deafening. There is not a single media owner or their factotums who preside over bully pulpits nightly who have the gumption to turn the searchlight within and question their own masters and their dodgy revenue generation practices. Freedom of the Press in India translates into Freedom of the owner of the Press to make money howsoever and in whatsoever unethical and illegal manner possible.”

Tewari, stung by the videos of media house executives discussing hit job-style reports on the characters of Opposition leaders, could have been speaking for himself and not on behalf of his party. But his tweets make clear that there is anger among Opposition leaders towards the way media house executives were ready to promote the political agenda of the ruling party and discuss character assassination of top Opposition leaders and parties in exchange for cash.

Barring a few exceptions, the Indian media has largely blanked out the story of the Cobrapost ‘sting’ exposes. Tewari also pointed out that the international media covering the Cobrapost exposes made the silence of Indian media all the more deafening, with the implicit suggestion that this would affect the credibility of both stung and “unstung” Indian media who remain silent. In his tweets, Tewari has also quite explicitly hinted of possible future consequences for media houses caught in the ‘sting’ tapes, beyond just loss of credibility.

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