Cobrapost: Top Media Houses Agreed to Run Pro-Hindutva Paid News
Cobrapost claims that media houses agreed to run paid campaigns to mock opposition leaders and propagate Hindutva.
Cobrapost claims that media houses agreed to run paid campaigns to mock opposition leaders and propagate Hindutva.(Photo: Meghnad Bose/The Quint)

Cobrapost: Top Media Houses Agreed to Run Pro-Hindutva Paid News

Cobrapost is back with the second installment of its ‘Operation 136’ investigation – alleging that Indian media houses agreed to run political campaigns, mock opposition leaders and propagate Hindutva for electoral gains, in exchange for money. Cobrapost’s investigation also includes a sting operation on e-commerce payment giant Paytm.

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Cobrapost Stings TOI Boss Vineet Jain, Times Claims Reverse Sting

Cobrapost reporter Pushp Sharma conducted a sting operation on Times Group MD Vineet Jain.
Cobrapost reporter Pushp Sharma conducted a sting operation on Times Group MD Vineet Jain.
(Photo: The Quint)

Times Group Managing Director and proprietor Vineet Jain is seen in conversation with Cobrapost reporter Pushp Sharma, who is posing as an RSS pracharak by the name of Acharya Chhatra Pal Atal.

Discussing Sharma’s proposal to pay Rs 500 crores to the Times Group in exchange for pro-Hindutva content regarding Lord Krishna and the Bhagavad Gita, Times Group boss Vineet Jain is seen suggesting methods to funnel the cash, through industrialists such as the Dalmia Group, Essar and Adani.

Jain is seen telling Sharma to pay any of these industrialists in cash, suggesting that they would in turn pay the Times Group by cheque.

(Photo: Screenshot/Cobrapost)

The Times Group has reacted to Cobrapost’s investigation, calling it “heavily doctored, incomplete and presented in a selective manner using out of context statements”.

Times has further claimed that they were conducting a “reverse sting” on Cobrapost reporter Pushp Sharma.

We were aware that the reporter in question, Pushp Sharma, was a dubious character and our senior functionaries played along with his activities to reel him in to discover his true intent and backing and to find out which business house or political parties were behind him. In fact, it was our reverse sting, carried out knowingly with a plan to make him commit a mistake and expose the people behind him.
Statement by Times Group

Read the entire story of the Times Group sting here.

Also Read : Cobrapost Stings TOI Boss Vineet Jain, Times Claims Reverse Sting

Cobrapost Sting: Paytm Senior VP Claims PMO Demanded Data of Users

Ajay Shekhar Sharma allegedly claimed that the PMO had demanded that Paytm share user data with a political party, so as to identify the stone-pelters.
Ajay Shekhar Sharma allegedly claimed that the PMO had demanded that Paytm share user data with a political party, so as to identify the stone-pelters.
(Photo: The Quint)

Cobrapost’s investigation titled ‘Operation-136 II’ says that a senior vice president at Paytm allegedly claimed that the e-wallet company had received a call from the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO), at a time when stone-pelting had reached its peak in the Kashmir Valley.

Ajay Shekhar Sharma, senior vice president and brother of Paytm founder Vijay Shekhar Sharma, can be seen telling the Cobrapost reporter, on tape, that the PMO had demanded that Paytm share user data with a political party, so as to identify the stone-pelters.

Though the video shows Ajay Shekhar Sharma purportedly claiming that the PMO asked for data of users, the video does not mention whether or not Paytm complied with the PMO’s alleged demand.

Paytm has released a statement, rubbishing the claims made by Cobrapost.

Over the course of his conversation, Ajay reiterates his relationship with the Sangh.

This is such a big thing, what can I say; I have done many things for the Sangh, some of which I can’t even tell you.
Ajay Shekhar Sharma to Cobrapost

Ajay also boasts that Union Minister for Rural Development Narendra Singh Tomar and Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan know him by name and face.

Read the entire story of the Paytm sting here.

Also Read : Cobrapost Sting: Paytm Senior VP Claims PMO Demanded Data of Users

Cobrapost Sting: Dainik Jagran Agrees to Dilute News on Jay Shah

Dainik Jagran was asked if it could “dilute negative stories” like the ones on BJP President Amit Shah and his son Jay Shah, by pushing them to the inner pages.
Dainik Jagran was asked if it could “dilute negative stories” like the ones on BJP President Amit Shah and his son Jay Shah, by pushing them to the inner pages.
(Photo: The Quint)

In one of the videos released by Cobrapost on YouTube, the web portal’s undercover reporter Pushp Sharma is seen in conversation with Rajesh Mahasha, an Advertisement Manager in charge of Jagran’s operations in Kangra, Himachal Pradesh.

Pushp asks Advertisement Manager Rajesh Mahasha if Dainik Jagran could “dilute negative stories” like the ones on BJP President Amit Shah and his son Jay Shah, by pushing them to the inner pages.

Mahasha then responds saying that Jagran’s editorial stand has in any case been in support of the BJP.

If you examine our newspaper, you’ll find that our editorial stand is in support of the BJP and never in opposition to it. A weekly column written by our Editor-in -Chief Manoj Gupta usually tends to highlight Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s work.
Rajesh Mahasha, Advertisement Manager at Dainik Jagran

Another video of Cobrapost’s sting on Dainik Jagran shows reporter Pushp Sharma at the daily’s Chandigarh office, where he held negotiations with Vaibhav Gupta, Senior Manager for Ad Sales at Radio City.

At first, Pushp Sharma says he wants content on Dainik Jagran to “bash” his political opponents. Sharma says this should be achieved by using terms like “Pappu” and “Behenji.”

Vaibhav Gupta nods in appreciation, adding that Behenji is a “general term.”

You cannot point it at any specific person. You can call any person Behenji.
Vaibhav Gupta, Senior Manager at Radio City

Read the entire story of the Dainik Jagran sting here.

Also Read : Cobrapost Sting: Dainik Jagran Agrees to Dilute News on Jay Shah

Cobrapost Sting Claims India Today Agreed to Run Hindutva Campaign

In Cobrapost’s video, a senior official of the India Today group allegedly agreed to run a paid “advertising campaign” with Hindutva and political overtones in exchange for a sum of Rs 275 crore.
In Cobrapost’s video, a senior official of the India Today group allegedly agreed to run a paid “advertising campaign” with Hindutva and political overtones in exchange for a sum of Rs 275 crore.
(Photo: The Quint)

In Cobrapost’s video, a senior official of the India Today group allegedly agreed to run a paid “advertising campaign” with Hindutva and political overtones in exchange for a sum of Rs 275 crore.

As part of its sting operation, Cobrapost sent their reporter Pushp Sharma under the alias of Acharya Chhatra Pal Atal of the 'Srimad Bhagvad Gita Prachar Samiti' to meet Rahul Kumar Shaw, Chief Revenue Officer of the TV Today Group.

Shaw is the official who allegedly agreed to take Sharma’s three-phased proposal forward.

Rahul Kumar Shaw, Chief Revenue Officer, India Today Group.
Rahul Kumar Shaw, Chief Revenue Officer, India Today Group.
(Photo: Screenshot/Cobrapost)

Here is the broad outline of the campaign that Cobrapost’s Pushp Sharma proposed to senior officials at India Today, posing as a proponent of Hindutva named Acharya Chhatra Pal Atal.

  • Phase 1 of the campaign required the organisation (the India Today group) to promote Lord Krishna and Bhagwad Gita in order to propagate "Hindutva vibes".
  • Phase 2 included content targeting Opposition leaders “Pappu, Bua and Babua” via jingles.
  • Phase 3, Sharma said, will depend on what the "need of the hour" is when the 2019 general elections approach in the later part of the year.
Email allegedly sent by Rahul Kumar Shaw.
Email allegedly sent by Rahul Kumar Shaw.
(Photo: Youtube Screenshot)

Rahul Kanwal, Managing Editor of India Today and Aaj Tak, posted an official statement of the group on social media claiming that “truth had been distorted” in the sting and threatened legal action against Cobrapost.

Read the entire story of the India Today sting here.

Cobrapost Sting: Network18 Agrees to Run Polarising ‘Paid News’

In a sting operation on Network 18, news agency <i>Cobrapost</i> has alleged that the organisation agreed to air propagandist news.
In a sting operation on Network 18, news agency Cobrapost has alleged that the organisation agreed to air propagandist news.
(Photo: The Quint)

Cobrapost’s Pushp Sharma meets with Network18 Executive Vice Presidents Priyanka Dutta and Joy Chakraborty.

Both Joy and Priyanka are seen discussing Free Commercial Time and creatives with Pushp.

Cobrapost’s reporter explains how he wants to use polarising tactics ahead of the elections, to which both Executive Vice Presidents agree.

A still from the Cobrapost sting.
A still from the Cobrapost sting.
(Photo: Screenshot/Cobrapost)
At the end of the meeting, Chakraborty (while addressing Dutta) is seen saying: “Only you and me will get involved. I don’t want anybody to know.”

Sharma also met with the Ad Sales Head of Viacom18, Deepak Luthra, with whom he’s seen discussing various advertisement creatives. Sharma mentions that they are looking to rope in “all 44 channels of the Network18 group”. He adds that the channels may be asked to use satire to target the opposition.

To this, Luthra replies that “MTV can get away with anything”, referring to the group’s musical entertainment channel.

Network18 is yet to respond to the allegations made in the Cobrapost investigation.

Read the entire story of the Network18 sting here.

Also Read : Cobrapost Sting: Network18 Agrees to Run Polarising ‘Paid News’

Some of the other media houses that were stung by Cobrapost include:

  • Hindustan Times
  • The New Indian Express
  • Bharat Samachar
  • Open Magazine
  • ABP News

The Delhi High Court on Thursday, 24 May, ordered an ex-parte injunction against the screening of Operation 136: Part II at a press conference in New Delhi at 3 pm.

The injunction came after the Dainik Bhaskar media group approached the Delhi High Court with the argument that the documentary’s release would lead to “irreparable loss and injury” to its reputation, “which cannot be undone.”

Notably, Cobrapost said the Dainik Bhaskar group is part of the investigations.

Acording to the website, in compliance with Delhi High Court order, references to, and materials relating to, Dainik Bhaskar publications group will not be released at this stage. Cobrapost alleged that the Delhi High Court passed the order in favour of Dainik Bhaskar without hearing their side of the story and have vowed to challenge it.

Cobrapost, which has carried out undercover operations through hidden cameras, has alleged that media publications "agreed to publish content with a potential to polarise the electorate along communal lines".

Also Read : Delhi HC Bars Cobrapost From Releasing Second Exposé on Paid News

Congress President Rahul Gandhi, reacted to the sting, tweeting “PayTM was equal to PayToPM.”

(Update: The Quint has removed a section of this article regarding Zee News as the said section is under legal review.)

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