Aniruddha Bahal

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Aniruddha Bahal (born c. 1967) Born in Allahabad, is the founder and editor-in-chief of Cobrapost, an Indian news website and television production house. Previously, he has worked for India Today, Outlook, Down to Earth and Financial Express among other publications. He also co-founded Tehelka. While at Tehelka, Bahal conceived and carried out an undercover investigative operation which caught members of Indian Cricket Team accepting bribes to throw matches on camera. It resulted in a series of articles on match fixing in Indian Cricket, which were eventually published as a book - Fallen Heroes. Bahal is also known for his part in Operation West End, another undercover investigative operation. In 2003, he left Tehelka.[1]

In 2003, Bahal wrote an espionage thriller Bunker 13, which went on to win the Literary Review's Bad Sex in Fiction Award.

In 2008, he started hosting The Tony B Show for Channel V.[2][3][4][1][5][6][7]In the satirical Hindi film L.S.D., the character Prabhat, a young man persecuted for being involved with a tehelka-like operation, is based on Aniruddha Bahal.[8]

Undercover Investigative Journalism[edit]

In 2003, Bahal founded and became the editor-in-chief of the online investigative journal Cobrapost.com. In 2005 Cobrapost carried out Operation Duryodhana (also known as the "Cash for Questions" scandal), in which they managed to film several members of the Indian parliament accepting cash bribes in return for asking questions in parliament.

On 13 March 2013 he exposed major banks in India turning black money into white and engaging in gross violations of Income Tax Act, FEMA, by carrying out a sting operation code named Red Spider[9]

He also unearthed misuse of social media platforms by several IT companies for a price. The Expose was revealed in 'Operation Blue Virus'

On 26 March 2018, the Indian equivalent of Cambridge Analytica was brought forth, in an undercover investigative operation by Cobrapost.[10][11] The Undercover expose Titled 'Operation 136' alleged how many Indian media houses were willing to promote Hindutva, lead communal polarisation for electoral gains, defame political rivals and execute nefarious political campaigns for money.[12] The expose claims to have established, with clinching evidence, for the first time in the history of Independent India, as to how Indian media houses reportedly influence the country's electoral process through undesirable means.[13] Undercover reporter Pushp Sharma, assuming an alias, interacted with owners and personnel of various media houses, promising doles ranging from 6 Crores to 50 Crores, in exchange for extending their platform to advance his own media campaign. The reporter explicitly communicated detailed steps of how he simply wanted to promote Hindutva in the initial phase, then gradually target viewers through communal content by advancing speeches of Hindutva Hardliners such as Uma Bharti, Mohan Bhagwat and others.[14][15][16] The final step would be orchestrated as elections approach, which would sully opposition leaders, namely Rahul gandhi, Akhilesh Yadav and Mayawati[17][18] by caricaturing them using undignified language like Pappu, Bua and Babua.[19][20][21] According to the press release of Cobrapost, a chief aspect of the campaign advanced by the reporter to such media houses, was to specifically plant news items to denigrate and sully the opposition, mainly the Congress party, JD, SP and BSP.[22][23] While functionaries of some media houses named in the undercover operation openly exhibited their sympathy towards the right wing, others asked for an advance renumeration in hard cash, which was blatantly a euphemism for black money.[24] Majority of media functionaries named in the expose, allegedly informed the undercover reporter as to how they had no qualms to accept half their renumeration in cash. Some functionaries reportedly added how their payment had to be made in advance, while other receipts could falsely indicate how the rest of their payments were donations. One media manager apparently suggested how "There are smart ways of doing it and there are foolish ways of doing it."[25]

In course of the investigation, Cobrapost pointed out how functionaries or in some cases owners, openly aired their close ties with the RSS or pro hindutva elements. Not only did several media houses agree to plant stories favouring the party in power, many agreed to specifically develop and advance advertorials to this effect.[26] Almost all accepted to run such a campaign on their print, electronic or digital, e-news portal, e-paper and social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter. It is also alleged how some media houses offered to undertake complete media management, to plant stories supporting the party in power, in different organisations as well, with the tacit support of other journalists.[27] According to the press release of Cobrapost, some even agreed to display the judiciary in an objectionable light as well as paint innocent, protesting farmers as maoists.[28][29][30] As unearthed by the undercover tapes reported by the portal, the said functionaries were inclined to 'manipulate public perception through a sustained campaign.'[31][32] "Shockingly, almost all media houses showed their eagerness to undertake such a diabolical media campaign," claimed Cobrapost.[33] The arrangement also aimed to target senior BJP leaders like Arun Jaitley and Maneka Gandhi, her son Varun Gandhi, BJP allies like Anupriya Patel, Om Prakash Rajbhar and Upendra Kushwaha.[34][35][36] Other targets included Prashant Bhushan, Dushyant Dave, Kamini Jaiswal and Indira Jaisingh.[37][38] Various media houses purportedly assented to slander profiles of various opposition leaders like Congress President, Rahul Gandhi, West Bengal Chief Minister and Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee and leaders from the Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party.[39][40] Asked whether 'any media houses had baulked at diabolical proposal' or disagreed with it, Bahal said, "We were very keen to have some examples of principled media houses, of owners and executives who flatly refuse our proposition. Sadly, we got none. Every one of the channels and newspapers we approached showed a willingness to enter into a deal despite fully realising the divisive agenda involved." Apparently none of the business representatives of the named media houses were against their platform being employed to influence elections, target the electorate or tarnishing opposition leaders.[41][42]

The First part of Operation 136 names more than two dozen media houses, including 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.[43] With the exception of The Hindu and The Indian Express, the expose found few takers in mainstream media, which largely ignored the sting.[44][45][46][47] A report by National Herald claimed how some media houses were hurriedly disconnecting their mikes and leaving the press conference, Republic TV and Rajya Sabha TV among them.[48][49]

Bibliography[edit]

  • Crack in the Mirror (1991)
  • Bunker 13 (2003)
  • The Emissary (2010)
  • The Adventures of Rhea: The Cobrapost Affair (2015)

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Reddy, Sheela (9 June 2003). "10 Questions Aniruddha Bahal". Outlook. Archived from the original on 2014-12-12. Retrieved 12 December 2014. 
  2. ^ Zaitchik, Alexander (19 November 2006). "Aniruddha Bahal: The King of Sting". The Independent. Retrieved 9 February 2010. 
  3. ^ "Caught on camera". Indian Express. 30 December 2009. Retrieved 9 February 2010. 
  4. ^ Tejpal, Tarun (7 March 2004). "For whom the bell tolls". Tehelka. Retrieved 9 February 2010. 
  5. ^ "Bad sex writer laughs at victory". BBC. 3 December 2003. Retrieved 9 February 2010. 
  6. ^ Ganesan, Sharmila (21 September 2008). "Bathroom breaks and other leaks". Times of India. Retrieved 9 February 2010. 
  7. ^ Narayan, Manjula (11 October 2008). "Tony B Good". Tehelka. Archived from the original on 22 March 2012. Retrieved 9 February 2010. 
  8. ^ L.S.D. Film Review
  9. ^ http://www.business-standard.com/article/markets/axis-icici-bank-hdfc-bank-stocks-fall-on-cobrapost-expose-113031400091_1.html
  10. ^ "Operation 136: Part 1". Cobrapost. 26 March 2018. Retrieved 24 April 2018. 
  11. ^ "Cobrapost says paid news widespread". The Hindu. 26 March 2018. Retrieved 24 April 2018. 
  12. ^ "Cobrapost sting Operation 136 shows some media houses ready to polarize voters for money". Nagpur Today. 27 March 2018. Retrieved 24 April 2018. 
  13. ^ "Cobrapost Alleges Paid News Agenda By Media, India TV denies Claim". The Quint. 27 March 2018. Retrieved 24 April 2018. 
  14. ^ "Operation 136: Part 1". Cobrapost. 26 March 2018. Retrieved 24 April 2018. 
  15. ^ "Peddling Hindutva For Money?: Cobrapost Stings Media Houses In Operation 136". Boom Live. 27 March 2018. Retrieved 24 April 2018. 
  16. ^ "Large Media Houses Accused of Striking Deals for Paid News to Promote Hindutva Agenda". The Wire. 27 March 2018. Retrieved 24 April 2018. 
  17. ^ "Indian media houses agree to run pro-Hindutva campaign, Cobrapost alleges". Asia Times. 27 March 2018. Retrieved 24 April 2018. 
  18. ^ "Cobrapost investigation : Many Indian media houses willing to peddle hindutva, defame political rivals". News click. 27 March 2018. Retrieved 24 April 2018. 
  19. ^ "Cobrapost's Operation 136 Exposed Sold Out Indian Media". The Times Magazine. 28 March 2018. Retrieved 24 April 2018. 
  20. ^ "Watch: Cobrapost cash for content sting targets prominent media houses". National Herald. 26 March 2018. Retrieved 24 April 2018. 
  21. ^ "Large Media Houses Accused of Striking Deals for Paid News to Promote Hindutva Agenda". The Wire. 27 March 2018. Retrieved 24 April 2018. 
  22. ^ "Cobrapost Alleges Paid News Agenda By Media, India TV denies Claim". The Quint. 27 March 2018. Retrieved 24 April 2018. 
  23. ^ "Cobrapost's Operation 136 Exposed Sold Out Indian Media". The Times Magazine. 28 March 2018. Retrieved 24 April 2018. 
  24. ^ "Peddling Hindutva For Money?: Cobrapost Stings Media Houses In Operation 136". Boom Live. 27 March 2018. Retrieved 24 April 2018. 
  25. ^ "Watch: Cobrapost cash for content sting targets prominent media houses". National Herald. 26 March 2018. Retrieved 24 April 2018. 
  26. ^ "RIP Free Media : Sting Operation Reveals Media Houses Willing To Push Communal Reports For Cash". The Citizen. 27 March 2018. Retrieved 24 April 2018. 
  27. ^ "Cobrapost exposé: The lowdown on what the tapes say". News Laundry. 27 March 2018. Retrieved 24 April 2018. 
  28. ^ "Operation 136: Part 1". Cobrapost. 26 March 2018. Retrieved 24 April 2018. 
  29. ^ "Sting shows some media houses ready to polarise voters on Hindutva for cash". Business Standard. 26 March 2018. Retrieved 24 April 2018. 
  30. ^ "Cobrapost Exposes Indian media : Almost all ready to promote 'Hindutva' for money". Coastal Digest. 27 March 2018. Retrieved 24 April 2018. 
  31. ^ "Cobrapost probe : Indian media outlets willing to push Hindutva for money". Deccan Herald. 27 March 2018. Retrieved 24 April 2018. 
  32. ^ "Cobrapost exposé: The lowdown on what the tapes say". News Laundry. 27 March 2018. Retrieved 24 April 2018. 
  33. ^ "Cobrapost Exposes Indian media : Almost all ready to promote 'Hindutva' for money". Coastal Digest. 27 March 2018. Retrieved 24 April 2018. 
  34. ^ "Sting shows some media houses ready to polarise voters on Hindutva for cash". Business Standard. 26 March 2018. Retrieved 24 April 2018. 
  35. ^ "Sting operation: India TV, Dainik Jagran and others accused of propagating Hindutva". Siasat. 27 March 2018. Retrieved 24 April 2018. 
  36. ^ "Cobra Sting shows media houses polarise voters for money". The Indian Awaaz. 27 March 2018. Retrieved 24 April 2018. 
  37. ^ "Operation 136: Part 1". Cobrapost. 26 March 2018. Retrieved 24 April 2018. 
  38. ^ "Sting shows some media houses ready to polarise voters on Hindutva for cash". Business Standard. 26 March 2018. Retrieved 24 April 2018. 
  39. ^ "RIP Free Media : Sting Operation Reveals Media Houses Willing To Push Communal Reports For Cash". The Citizen. 27 March 2018. Retrieved 24 April 2018. 
  40. ^ "Ugly face of 17 media outlets ready to 'do anything' for cash exposed in sting operation". Ummid. 27 March 2018. Retrieved 24 April 2018. 
  41. ^ "Large Media Houses Accused of Striking Deals for Paid News to Promote Hindutva Agenda". The Wire. 27 March 2018. Retrieved 24 April 2018. 
  42. ^ "Cobrapost probe : Indian media outlets willing to push Hindutva for money". Deccan Herald. 27 March 2018. Retrieved 24 April 2018. 
  43. ^ "Cobrapost says paid news widespread". The Hindu. 26 March 2018. Retrieved 24 April 2018. 
  44. ^ "Cobrapost's 'Operation 136' releases explosive undercover videos on over dozen media houses". Janta Ka Reporter. 27 March 2018. Retrieved 24 April 2018. 
  45. ^ "Cobrapost exposé finds few takers in Big Media". You News. 27 March 2018. Retrieved 24 April 2018. 
  46. ^ "Rahul Gandhi hits out at media for 'cunning twisting of facts'". News Nation. 28 March 2018. Retrieved 24 April 2018. 
  47. ^ "Sting Operation By Cobrapost Alleges 17 Media Houses Ready To Accept "Fee" For Pushing Polarised Stories". The Logical Indian. 29 March 2018. Retrieved 24 April 2018. 
  48. ^ "Cobrapost's Operation 136 Exposed Sold Out Indian Media". The Times Magazine. 28 March 2018. Retrieved 24 April 2018. 
  49. ^ "Cobrapost's 'Operation 136' releases explosive undercover videos on over dozen media houses". Janta Ka Reporter. 27 March 2018. Retrieved 24 April 2018.