A Cobrapost expose has shown how media outlets can be paid in cash to depict BJP rivals, including Congress party chief Rahul Gandhi negatively so they can be distanced by voters in the upcoming elections.
The sting operation called "Operation 136", where the number shows India rank on Press Freedom Index, came just a few days after the Union Information and Broadcasting minister Ravi Shankar Prasad warned in a tweet saying:“Any covert or overt attempt to misuse Social Media including Facebook to influence India’s electoral process through undesirable means will neither be tolerated, nor be permitted."
The minister tweeted the warning on March 21, 2018 following Facebook’s data breach scam was going viral over Cambridge Analytica, whose services were initially thought to have been used by Congress. Later, it came to light that even BJP allies used its services in Bihar elections.
An undercover journalist of cobrapost, who visited 17 media outlets in the guise of a Hindutva man, brings to light how media owners or top executives are ready to compromise for cash to beam out only the negative content on BJP rivals from Rahul Gandhi to Mayawati.
In the first part of Operation 136, the sting operation has revealed the secret recording with publications such as India TV, Dainik Jagran, Hindi Khabar, SAB TV, DNA (Daily News and Analysis), Amar Ujala, UNI, 9X Tashan, Samachar Plus, HNN 24*7, Punjab Kesari, Swatantra Bharat, ScoopWhoop, Rediff.com, IndiaWatch, Aj and Sadhna Prime News.
Essentially, the content promised was against Congress chief Rahul Gandhi and other opposition leaders and all the above outlets were willing to run the content despite rules in India prohibiting such compromise to mislead voters ahead of the elections.
However, Congress President Rahul Gandhi, said he could not hate those who hated him. The fact is that some people made their livelihoods spinning lies about him, he said. "I’m blessed and honoured that they make their livelihoods spinning lies about me," he tweeted.
“I can never hate those who try to stir up hate against me, with fake stories and their cunning twisting of fact. For them it’s just business; hate sold for a price, as the Cobrapost expose shows,” Gandhi tweeted, tagging a report.