In the second part of the documentary ‘Operation 136’, in which 27 media houses were approached by reporters posing as Hindutva propagandists asking them to publish ‘Hindutva’-tinted news on behalf of a made-up entity, two West Bengal newspapers refused to “sell out”.
The documentary is part of an operation conducted by Cobrapost, to check whether the biggest to smallest media houses would fall for Hindutva big-budget advertorials. The first part of ‘Operation 136’ was revealed earlier in March 2018, where big names like India TV, Dainik Jagran, DNA, Scoopwhoop and others were listed as having been willing to take the bribe.
But when the undercover Cobrapost reporter had approached the senior general manager (advertorial) of the West Bengal-based popular Bengali daily Bartaman Patrika, Ashish Mukherjee, the latter had turned down the offer.
Mukherjee reportedly said that the newspaper would not publish any religious content and instead offered a lecture on ethics in the media to the reporter, who was posing as a Godman, an official Cobrapost report on the incident stated.
He cited the words of his former editor Barun Sengupta, who had told him:
Ashish Babu, you carry all advertisements (except those) where (in which) claim himself (anyone) to be god, to be good, to be best.Ashish Mukherjee, as reported by Cobrapost
Sengupta was the veteran founder of the paper, who chose to go to jail during the Indira Gandhi-imposed Emergency in the 1970s for protesting against the diktats that it put on the media, rather than accepting them.
The report states he refused to fall for the offer, even when the reporter raised the biased advertising budget from 1.5 crore to 10 crore for the paper.
Following this, the reporter approached an executive of yet another West Bengal-based paper Dainik Sambad, to publish jingles with a “Hindutva agenda” based on the upcoming Lok Sabha elections of 2019.
However, he too turned down the undercover reporter’s request, saying that he would not publish any religious content on the newspaper.
According to the Cobrapost report:
He refused to do anything with the advertisement after hearing the name of the organisation, which shows the basic principles of the media house even while doing business.
Referring to the two newspapers that refused to sell out to the Hindutva advertorial offer, the Cobra report added that it “sends out a ray of hope that Indian media is not completely sold out”.
(With inputs from Cobrapost)