BBC news story
BBC news story
It is a potential scandal that claims to strike at a key pillar of Indian democracy - the freedom of the press - yet it is barely being reported in the Indian media. There's a simple reason for that: this alleged scandal involves many of the most powerful media institutions in the country. A sting operation by a news organisation called Cobrapost claims to have revealed a deeply engrained bias towards the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) within many of India's leading media groups, as well as a willingness among some of the country's most senior media executives and journalists to take money in return for pushing a political agenda. Cobrapost, a small but controversial outlet known for undercover stings, describes itself as a non-profit news organisation that believes too much journalism in India has been "trivialised". It has dubbed its story "Operation 136" - the figure is a reference to India's ranking in the 2017 World Press Freedom Index. Their website says its recordings show that some of the country's leading news organisations are willing to "not only cause communal disharmony among citizens, but also tilt the electoral outcome in favour of a particular party"- and all in return for cash. Undercover stings of this kind are notoriously unreliable. The footage can easily be taken out of context or edited to change the meaning of a conversation or misrepresent its real nature. An undercover reporter from Cobrapost, Pushp Sharma, says he approached more than 25 of India's leading media organisations, offering them all a similar deal. He claimed to represent a wealthy ashram - a Hindu monastery - which, he said, was willing to pay large amounts of money in the run up to next year's general election in an attempt to ensure the BJP, a Hindu nationalist party, remains in power.