Is anyone shocked by the latest tranche of videos posted by Cobrapost, showing how the mainstream media is working on paid propaganda and willing to give up ethics for funds? Being in India, or rather anywhere else, it shouldn’t be something more than a mild surprise – that too, just because we can see how happily the top-notch media controllers get ready to take money to push a political agenda.

Journalism schools have been injecting the theories of how ethics must be religiously followed and how it is important to retain trust in the media to deliver credible information. The talks of upholding to ethics have pretty much turned into small talks – thanks to the polarised environment that has forfeited the high ground of transparency and honesty. For India, specifically, the 2018 World Press Freedom Index rank where India limps at 138th out of 180. With such a suppressed level of pressed freedom, hardly can anyone think there was good news arriving from Cobrapost’s Operation 136 Part II sting operation.

As a part of the media world, watching these videos is a dispiriting experience, but it is certainly not something unexpected. While sting operations might be tagged to be an act of “lying to get the truth”, no media house has denied the authenticity of those exposed in the operation. The undercover reporter of Cobrapost just used same story in all media houses – that he comes from a wealthy ashram which wants the BJP to remain in power. However, it is remarkable and bewildering to see how much people can reveal in conversation with people they do not know. They just speak under false pretences, they do not know they are being recorded, they have no defence, and so on.

Why this revelation surprises us is how easily and happily most media houses, their owners, seniors and some journalists agree upon taking money in exchange of pushing a political or religious agenda; and how flawlessly they convert the tainted money to legitimate – no GST, whatsoever. This is not good news for news media when its reputation is sinking down to all-time low and yet, it is sticking to sucking up to the government, ignoring the state of deplorability that we are in. And it is no more about BJP, or India, or Asia – it is about the situation of global mainstream media that is frightened by the attempts of men in power to muzzle down truth. Operations like these must be seen as eye-openers instead of trying to defend ones media house – because adhering to core journalistic values and ethics is the only way to retain trust in these trying times.

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