Cobrapost Stings TOI Boss Vineet Jain, Times Claims Reverse Sting
MD Vineet Jain allegedly suggested ways to funnel cash through industrialists such as Adani, Essar and Dalmia Group.
In Cobrapost’s investigation ‘Operation 136 Part 2’, 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.
Times Claims Reverse Sting
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
Naming Adani, Essar and the Dalmias
In the Cobrapost video, Vineet Jain is seen saying, “Aur bhi businessmen honge jo humein cheque denge, aap unhe cash de do” (There are other businessmen who will give us cheques, you pay them in cash.)
Vineet Jain, Times Group Managing Director: Gujarat mein jo businessman hai, kya naam hai unka, the biggest koi bada businessman. (The businessman in Gujarat, what’s his name, the biggest businessman)
Sanjeev Shah, Times Group Executive President: Essar is big, Ambani is big, Adani is there.
Vineet Jain: Essar also aap dekh sakte ho (You can look at Essar as well)
Sanjeev Shah: Any even udhar...
Cobrapost reporter Pushp Sharma (cuts him off): Nahi, humne unhe protect kiya hai, let me... (No, we have protected him, let me...)
Vineet Jain: Adani bhi hai (There is Adani as well)
Vineet Jain, Times Group Managing Director: Vishnu Hari Dalmia toh, aapke Dalmia toh
Cobrapost reporter Pushp Sharma: Accha, woh nahi bolenge (Yes, he won’t speak against it)
Sanjeev Shah: Kyunki ek do families aisi hai jahan aapko agar comfort ho (Because there are one or two families with which we can do this, if you are comfortable with it)
Cobrapost reporter Pushp Sharma: Hmm
Sanjeev Shah: Toh hamaara toh bohot easy matlab yeh jo ek family ka naam liya hai... maine (Then it is very easy for us, like the one family I named...)
Cobrapost reporter Pushp Sharma: Dalmia bhai sahab ka
Sanjeev Shah: Haan
Vineet Jain is also seen nodding at this point.
Times Group’s Response
Late night on 26 May, a day after Cobrapost published their investigation, The Times of India published an article headlined ‘Cobrapost's sting on media groups based on doctored content and falsification’.
The so-called report claims to be based entirely on so-called ‘sting operations,’ but it is actually a case of doctoring of content and falsification, as no media organisations named in it agreed to any illegal or immoral activity and no contracts were signed.Excerpt from TOI’s article on the Cobrapost investigation
The TOI article says: “This is the same Pushp Sharma who was arrested by Delhi police in May 2016 for fabricating an RTI reply to publish a report claiming the government was discriminating against Muslims in recruitment of yoga trainers by the AYUSH ministry. He was at that time booked for cheating, forgery and promoting enmity between different groups. He had also been arrested earlier in 2009 for extorting money from government officials by threatening to conduct sting ops against them.”
The Quint sent a detailed questionnaire to the Times Group, asking for a statement on the Cobrapost investigation. The following is their reply, reproduced in its entirety.
“At the outset, we reject all the allegations made on us and as alleged regarding our senior executives which presume that the content presented by cobrapost.com is genuine.
We squarely deny all of the allegations made by cobrapost.com. They have maliciously presented a one sided view of the events, with intention of creating sensationalism at the expense of our organisation and to adversely affect our reputation, standing and integrity before the public.
We had provided our detailed response to cobrapost.com, which debunked all of their malicious assertions against us, but our version has not been included by them in their report. They have chosen not to publish such material, hence non-inclusion of our specifically relevant factual inputs was an act of wrongdoing with knowledge and ill intent to create a fictitious scandal, against which we shall proceed suitably. This was also an act in breach of journalistic ethics, for which they should be ostracized.
The content presented by cobrapost.com is heavily doctored, incomplete and has been presented in a selective manner using out of context statements by us. The story presented by them is completely false and fabricated and we have already forwarded the matter to our attorneys for necessary legal action.
cobrapost.com has been dishonest and malicious in their reporting, especially when they have all relevant details from us, which they conveniently chose not to consider. For example, we had informed them that 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. We have substantial evidence with us regarding this and our act was carried out with the advise of our legal team and investigation team. As there was only an activity to trap cobrapost.com representative Pushp Sharma and to bring him out as an imposter, no actual business dealing was done and no money was exchanged in any form whatsoever. In fact, Pushp Sharma was insisting on payment by cash and we continued reeling him in to understand his backing. If he had signed a contract on this subject, we would have been able to expose his criminal activity. Please note that this is the same Pushp Sharma who was arrested by Delhi police in May 2016 for fabricating an RTI reply to publish a report claiming the government was discriminating against Muslims in recruitment of yoga trainers by the AYUSH ministry. He was at that time booked for cheating, forgery and promoting enmity between different groups. He had also been arrested earlier in 2009 for extorting money from government officials by threatening to conduct sting operations against them. He is a known fraudster and any reliance on his tainted activities would be an illegal act with knowledge.
Please note that a reverse sting similar to ours was also carried out against Pushp Sharma by Zee News, who released a video in April this year showing how Pushp Sharma himself had got stung by its representatives when he tried to lure them into a ‘deal’ as part of ‘Operation 136.’ Such actions are always taken up by reputed media organisations, when they are suspicious of any person’s activities.
Even when this ruse was on with the fraudster Pushp Sharma, we only made a marketing offer to reel him in to reveal his antecedents. We categorically state that we do not deal in cash in any manner and all of our business transactions happen in a legal manner though necessary banking channels. Our statements made in this context were misquoted and misrepresented by cobrapost.com, with knowledge of wrongdoing.
Please also note that not a single one of the more than a dozen media groups targeted by Pushp Sharma accepted any money or put out any content that was pushed by him. Also, the activities of Cobrapost are through enticement and inducement which are activities specifically denounced and prohibited by the Delhi High Court in 2007. Accordingly, Pushp Sharma’s malicious fraud and cobrapost’s illegal report cannot be considered as a sting operation and these are illegal activities in breach of journalistic standards and are in contempt of Court. Any reliance on such material shall also make you and all of your management equally liable jointly and severally.
Cobrapost is peddling a one sided narrative against reputed media organisations, in spite of knowledge of actual facts and they are trying to denounce certain religions and related ideology. Our marketing discussions about television serials or sponsorships of programs like Ramayana and Mahabharata are being misused by Cobrapost as propagation or denouncement of a specific religion, which is nothing but a malicious allegation about purely legitimate entertainment business activities. Making a television serial, comic strips or web series on Mahabharata, Rama, Hanuman, Krishna, Jesus Christ, Prophet Muhammad, Mahavir, Buddha or Ganeshs is not to be considered as promoting any religious ideology, and such activities are constitutional and not illegal or unethical in any manner.
Thus, misuse of religious principles by Cobrapost and Pushp Sharma’s acts of fraud on media companies to show one religion or its related political ideology in negative light by selective and doctored conversation is clearly unethical and must be rejected as such.
In light of the above noting, we advise you to refrain from publishing any derogatory or defamatory content against us relying on the illegal and malicious assertions made by unethical and malicious entities like cobrapost.com and their reporter Pushp Sharma who has a criminal past and who is out on bail and who has spent considerable time in jail for illegal activities including fraud and forgery.
We hope that you shall consider our views favourably, avoid publishing any defamatory content against us in your website / social media accounts and desist from making any defamatory statements against us. You would agree that uploading / relying / passing judgment based on any cobrapost.com content without verifying the facts from us is unethical.
We therefore call upon you to cease and desist from using the Cobrapost.com narrative in any manner whatsoever to defame us. Any such misuse / abuse shall constraint us to initiate suitable legal action against your organisation as well to protect our reputation.”
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