Jammu media numb over ‘Cobrapost’

Pallavi Sareen. Dated: 6/4/2018 12:29:45 PM

JAMMU, June 3: The sting of the Cobrapost sting operation has left the journalists of Jammu numb and virtually silent. Majority of the Jammu journalists with whom Kashmir Times interacted were either reluctant to voice their opinions on the matter or said that they knew nothing about it.
The recent ‘Cobrapost Sting operation’ was a major expose of how national media outlets were willing to cross the line of ethics and air pro-Hindutva material on their channels because of commercial interests. Cobrapost which is a non-profit journalism company carried out a sting operation called ‘Operation 136’ on May 25th, 2018 in which an undercover reporter assumed an alias and interacted with personnel and owners of various media houses with an offer to promote pro-Hindutva content as part of his media campaign in return for money.
The campaign was supposed to be a three-level operation with first step focusing on promoting Hindutva using customized programmes. The second step would include airing speeches of Hindutva speakers and the final step included targeting the opposition leaders. The sting operation was spread to print, broadcast and even social media. Some of the major media houses that were named in the expose were Times of India, India Today, Zee News, ABP News and Dainik Jagran among others.
“We are not authorized to talk about it,” said Ashwani Kumar, Bureau Chief of Aaj Tak from Jammu region and President, Press Club of Jammu while Arun Sharma, senior journalist at Indian express commented, “I am out of the station and so don’t have much information about this.”
Many other journalists maintained they had no knowledge about the Sting Operation and yet after explaining said that they condemned such acts but it was not too shocking either.
Sham Sunder Thappa from Dainik Jagran, while defending his newspaper said, “I don’t know about other reporters but nothing like this ever happens in our newspaper.” He also said that he didn’t know much about the Cobrapost Sting Operation and further commented, “People do take money. But ours is not that kind of newspaper.” Interestingly, Dainik Jagran is one of the papers listed in the Cobrapost sting.
On the other hand, Balram Saini, State Bureau Chief of Punjab Kesari outrightly said, “I have no knowledge of this matter.”
Vishal Chopra, chief editor at Jammu Metro Daily Newspaper said, “Polarization is wrong and this is the first time something like this has come out in the open. But ‘funda chalta rehta hai’ (These kinds of things keep happening). There are government agencies who work on these things and so ‘pages chadhte utarte rehte hai’ (pages keep being posted and taken down).”
Some other journalists just evaded the conversation. It came as a surprise that journalists who have to remain up to date with information said they know nothing about the major expose and that too in their own field.
However, one senior journalist spoken to was vehemently critical of the way big media houses had fallen for the bait. Senior journalist Pushp Saraf, currently a freelancer and former senior correspondent in Indian Express, and wrote editorials for Daily Excelsior in J&K, averred that the profession is being exploited by opportunists. He said that the recent discoveries from Cobrapost Sting operation were sickening.
Saraf added that “We are not surprised since we have been in this field and we have been on the outside, looking. The whole scene is terrible. When I was in the field, I used to read at least nine newspapers regularly. Even afterwards, I had the habit of reading newspaper daily but now I don’t anymore. I just check online for information on major issues because there is a ‘crisis of credibility’ in newspapers these days. It is so difficult for us to read it.”
He also commented upon how unbiased and reliable journalism is disappearing. He also said that comparatively, the foreign associations provide better benefits, without asking to compromise with the honesty. “The financial atmosphere is getting tougher for the newer generation.”
In a field where one makes a career out of staying up to date with all current stories, condemning the acts that are against the public interest, such an atmosphere has fostered where journalists are looking after their own interests and staying silent about events that matter, Saraf added.



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