Investigative journalism is a form of journalism in which reporters deeply investigate a single topic of interest, such as serious crimes, political corruption, or corporate wrongdoing. In recent times this type of journalism has reached new levels. With exposes like Panama, DHFL among others. One of these Journalist group is Cobrapost. Cobrapost has come out as a shining leader in the investigative reporting.
In a recent investigation, Cobrapost exposed three dozen Bollywood celebrities who were ready to promote political parties by posting favourable messages on their social media accounts to help create a buzz in the run-up to 2019 elections, all for money. Among these celebrities are directors, actors, singers, stand-up comedians and dancers: Noted playback singers, Abhijeet Bhattacharya, Kailash Kher, Mika Singh and Baba Sehgal; actors Jackie Shroff, Shakti Kapoor, Vivek Oberoi, Sonu Sood, Amisha Patel, Mahima Chaudhry, Shreyas Talpade, Puneet Issar, Surendra Pal, Pankaj Dheer and his son Nikitin Dheer, Tisca Chopra, Deepshikha Nagpal, Akhilendra Mishra, Rohit Roy, Rahul Bhat, Salim Zaidi, Rakhi Sawant, Aman Verma, Hiten Tejwani and spouse Gauri Pradhan, Evelyn Sharma, Minissha Lamba, Koena Mitra, Poonam Pandey, Sunny Leonne; comedians Raju Srivastava, Sunil Pal, Rajpal Yadav, Upasana Singh, Krushna Abhishek and Vijay Ishwarlal Pawar; and choreographer Ganesh Acharya and dancer Sambhavana Seth. This is almost who’s who of the entertainment industry, both film and TV.
All except Vidya Balan, Arshad Warsi, Raza Murad and Saumya. These actors showed some integrity and denied the offer. While all other fellow stars succumbed to money pressure they showed integrity and declined.
The Cobrapost made and posted several videos of the celebrities. The journalists posed as agents of PR agencies representing different political parties. They offered different sums of money to these celebrities in exchange of favourable social media posts over different platforms. Some even accepted the offer of under the desk payments which were part cash and part white. Actress Mahima Chaudhary even went to down to ask for 1 crore rupees in exchange of 15 posts per month. She said, ” BJP can pay any sum”.
Cobrapost’s fake PR agency made it clear that this exercise is not official campaigning for political parties but is a backdoor agenda-driven pre-election tactic. Cobrapost claims and is visible in the videos that all the celebrities agreed and some even tweeted without having been paid yet to show they were on board. Others said they’d indulged in such practices before and knew the drill. Rakhi Sawant confessed to having been worked with the PR of Rajnath Singh before. They were also willing to accept black money as payment, i.e. payment in cash.
“Operation Karaoke” was shown to the media at Delhi Press Club on February 19, 2019, at 3.30 pm.
According to Cobrapost: “The names of political parties were used, in good faith and public interest, for narrative purpose only, and this is not an insinuation of their actual involvement in the practice. The investigation was made to expose the celebs willing to endorse a political agenda in return for monetary gains.”
This expose has opened new doors of unethical PR world. And has sparked many debates.
Read | Cobrapost exposes DHFL scam.