Top Story

Home >> media-print >> Article

Times Group responds to Cobrapost sting, calls it doctored content

28-May-2018
Font Size   16
Times Group responds to Cobrapost sting, calls it doctored content

BCCL, the publisher of The Times of India, which was featured in the recent Cobrapost sting has termed the report as “doctored content”. In a statement published in Times of India, it said, “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.”
BCCL has also said that it is seeking legal opinion in order to initiate appropriate action against Cobrapost.

Here is the full version of the BCCL statement:

Cobrapost is at it again. The website recently released ‘Operation 136,’ which it claimed is an investigative report meant to show how several media groups in India agreed to propagate Hindutva ideology and political agenda in exchange for money. 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.

This so-called investigation, which targeted over a dozen media organizations, was conducted by ‘journalist’ Pushp Sharma, who posed as one Acharya Chhatrapal Atal and claimed he was linked to various saffron groups.

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.

Cobrapost and Pushp Sharma met representatives of many prominent media houses such as Hindustan Times, Zee, Dainik Bhaskar, India TV, Jagran, Star and also Bennett, Coleman and Co. Ltd (BCCL). All of them conducted business negotiations, but nothing was concluded because of the inappropriate, unethical, and illegal demands of Sharma.

This so-called sting operation has already led to a judicial rebuke for Cobrapost with the Delhi High Court on Thursday (May 24) restraining the website from releasing a part of the report at a press conference planned at the Press Club of India, New Delhi, on Friday (May 25) after an injunction was sought by the Dainik Bhaskar group. The restraint would stay ‘till further orders,’ the HC said, accepting the Dainik Bhaskar group’s argument that the object of the report was ‘sensationalism’ and ‘sensational journalism.’ The group had told the court that Cobrapost wanted to sully its reputation and ‘arm-twist’ it ‘for illegal benefit’ and that ‘irreparable loss and injury’ would be caused to its reputation if ex-parte orders were not issued.

Cobrapost has also uploaded some content against BCCL, the publisher of The Times of India, in its report on Friday (May 25). A spokesperson of BCCL stated they had sent a detailed communication to Cobrapost in this regard, and Cobrapost has maliciously not put forth the true facts regarding the episode before the public. This has been done to mislead the public and to fabricate a scandal. The fact is that BCCL senior functionaries were aware that the person (Pushp Sharma) claiming to be Acharya Atal was an imposter well before they started discussions with him. They were acting under the advice of the BCCL legal team to trap the fraudster and to discover his true intent and details of the people, political formations or businesses backing him. Essentially, BCCL was in the process of carrying out a reverse sting with a plan to make the so-called Acharya Atal commit a mistake or even sign legal contracts so as to expose the people and organisations behind him.

The spokesperson also confirmed that there are various pieces of evidence in this regard available with BCCL on how it sought to trap the fraudster journalist Pushp Sharma. BCCL is now seeking legal opinion in order to initiate appropriate action against Cobrapost and Pushp Sharma for their illegal activities and for defamation.

The fact is that no actual business deal was done and no money exchanged in any form whatsoever with BCCL. In fact, it was Sharma who was insisting on payment by cash, while BCCL representatives continued engaging with him on the subject in order to understand his real backers and agenda.

At no point did BCCL countenance any suggestion that would have even remotely compromised the editorial sanctity of its media platforms. The ideas that were discussed by BCCL representatives revolved entirely around the production of web series and ways to market them through the group’s entertainment and outdoor platforms. To suggest otherwise is a misrepresentation of facts.

Another alarming aspect is the one-sided narrative Cobrapost wishes to peddle against reputed media organisations by way of portraying the entire episode as one with a communal dimension. Innocuous marketing discussions about TV serials and sponsorship of programmes like the Ramayana and Mahabharata have been shown by Cobrapost to be propagation or denouncement of a specific religion. This is nothing but a malicious allegation made about purely legitimate entertainment activities.

As a matter of fact, making a TV serial, comic strip or web series on the Mahabharata or on Rama, Hanuman, Krishna, Jesus Christ, Prophet Muhammad, Mahavir, Buddha or Ganesha cannot be considered as promotion of any religious ideology. Such activities are wholly constitutional and not illegal or unethical in any manner. Many entertainment channels, including state-owned Doordarshan, have carried such content in the past, and no such activity has been challenged by any party as being tantamount to propagating a religious ideology.

Misuse of religious principles by Cobrapost and Sharma’s acts of fraud against media companies to show one religion or its related political ideology in a negative light by putting out selective content and doctored conversations is clearly unethical and must be rejected.
India TV, one of the channels named in a part of ‘Operation 136’ also recently refuted Cobrapost’s allegations and called the Cobrapost video ‘doctored.’ Not a single proposal put forward by Sharma was accepted by the editorial or other teams of India TV, no consideration accepted, and no material shared by him was aired, the channel stated, adding that India TV would be taking the ‘strictest legal action’ in the matter.
Another channel, Zee News, released a video in April showing how Sharma himself had got stung by its representatives when he tried to lure them into a ‘deal’ as part of ‘Operation 136.’ The video showed that when Sharma posed as Acharya Chhatrapal Atal, met Zee representatives in Bhubaneshwar and offered to pay the channel for pro-Hindutva content, the channel’s personnel made it clear that they would stick to journalistic ethics and standards.
Interestingly, it appears that not a single one of the more than a dozen media groups targeted by Sharma accepted any money or put out any content that was pushed by him. Also, as the activities of Cobrapost are through enticement and inducement - activities specifically denounced and prohibited by the Delhi High Court in 2007 – they cannot be considered as sting ops in any case and are illegal activities in breach of journalistic standards.

Telugu daily Sakshi has completed a decade in the newspaper industry. Group's Director-Advertising and Marketing talks about the newspaper's journey so far

The MD of Sai Estate Consultants, Chembur, on their marketing strategy, adopting a carpet bombing approach, response to the Wajood app and why he now allocates maximum of his marketing spends on digital

Prachi Mohapatra on fbb’s latest campaign, one-year after going omni-channel, and its growing reliance on content marketing

The marketing head of Greenpanel on marketing approach and how the company is working towards educating consumer about MDF

right
left
INDUSTRY VETERANS ADDRESS ATTENDEES AT THE INMA SOUTH ASIA MEDIA FESTIVAL @DELHI RADIO CITY RECOGNIZES BUSINESS ICONS AT DELHI ICON AWARDS 2018 KARAN THAPAR & SHEKHAR GUPTA DISCUSS JOURNALISTIC ETHICS AT THE PRINT’S ‘OFF THE CUFF’ WOMEN ECONOMIC FORUM AWARDS 2018 RECOGNIZE WOMEN LEADERS OF THE DECADE THE 6TH EDITION OF IAA AWARDS RECOGNIZES THE WORK OF INDUSTRY PROFESSIONALS 11 INDUSTRY EXPERTS PRESENT  THEIR FAVOURITE DIGITAL CASE STUDIES @AD CLUB’S ‘D-CODE BUSINESSWORLD LAUNCHES 14TH EDITION OF MARKETING WHITEBOOK IN MUMBAI INDUSTRY VETERANS CHEER AS ADMAN AMBI PARAMESWARAN LAUNCHES NEW BOOK SPONG AAAI HONOURS VETERAN ADMAN RAM SEHGAL WITH THE 2018 LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWAR PITCH TOP 50 BRANDS 2018 AWARDS COMPANIES WITH BEST MARKETING PRACTICES TEAM BBDO ORGANIZES AJAI JHALA’S FAREWELL WITH FRIENDS & ASSOCIATES RADIO CITY CELEBRATES ITS 17TH ANNIVERSARY WITH CONCERT, AWARDS AND FUN 5TH EDITION OF TIMES NOW & ICICI BANK’S NRI OF THE YEAR AWARDS GLOBAL INDIANS PITCH CMO SUMMIT BENGALURU SEES TOP INDUSTRY LEADERS AND MARKETERS IN ATTENDANCE DISTINGUISHED JURY COMES TOGETHER TO PICK WINNERS FOR PITCH’S TOP 50 BRANDS PITCH CMO SUMMIT BANGALORE SEES TOP CMOS ACROSS INDUSTRIES IN ATTENDANCE 1ST REPUBLIC TV GULF INDIAN LEADERSHIP SUMMIT & AWARDS HONOUR STALWARTS OF INDIAN GULF BUSINESS COMMUNITY SONY YAY! CELEBRATES ITS FIRST BIRTHDAY WITH PARTY FOR TRADE PARTNERS THOUGHT LEADERS AND TOP DIGITAL MARKETERS SPEAK @ EXCHANGE4MEDIA GROUP’S TECHMANCH 2018 IN MUMBAI EXCHANGE4MEDIA’S IDMA 2018 RECOGNIZES INDUSTRY’S BEST DIGITAL MARKETING CAMPAIGNS

#ShineWithBBLUNT campaign promotes at-home high shine crème hair colour range Salon Secret

The public can make contributions to government account number 10210100412397. IFS Code is FDRL0001021.

Your weekly news roundup, a summary of some of the stories to keep an eye on